Packers’ Mark Murphy in Washington Post op-ed: Rookie wage scale “key factor in striking deal with union”

Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy discussed the importance of a rookie wage scale in an op-ed column in Sunday’s edition of The Washington Post under the header, “To avoid an NFL lockout, let’s stop breaking the bank with rookies.”

“A rookie wage scale will be a key factor in striking a deal with the union, along with a revised year-round football calendar – with 18 regular-season games, two preseason games, fewer off-season practices, and additional steps to enhance player safety,” wrote Murphy, who played eight seasons for the Washington Redskins (1977-84) and was the assistant executive director for the NFLPA during the 1987 players’ strike.

“Rookies should be paid fairly, but they should not be among the highest-paid NFL players before playing a single down,” added Murphy, who serves on the NFL’s 10-member Management Council Executive Committee which is responsible for labor negotiations. “Teams don’t like it. Veterans and retired players don’t like it. Fans don’t like it. And the players’ union shouldn’t like it, either.

“Earlier this year, Sports Illustrated published a list of the 50 highest-paid American athletes. Five 2009 NFL rookies were on the list, averaging nearly $21 million in total income for their rookie year. Every other athlete on the list was a proven veteran.

“Our current system of paying rookies doesn’t make sense. In 2009, 256 drafted rookies signed contracts calling for $1.2 billion in compensation with $585 million guaranteed. This year the numbers increased to $1.27 billion, including $660 million guaranteed, for 255 draft choices.

“No other business operates this way, and no other union gives its entry-level hires such privileges. The system is so bad that some teams no longer want picks in the top part of the first round of the NFL draft. The cost is too high, especially if a player taken that high turns out to be a bust.

“We estimate that a rookie wage scale would free up more than a billion dollars during the term of a five-year agreement, and more if it is a longer deal. That money would be redistributed to veterans and retired players. The new entry-level system would end rookie holdouts that damage relations between the player and team, and would eliminate the complexities in the current rookie contracts.”

Click here to read Murphy’s complete column from Sunday’s edition of The Washington Post.

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