Meanwhile, in the NFL, America’s most popular sports league, contracts often contain little in the way of job security and guaranteed money.
Derek Carr, for instance, signed a five-year, $125 million contract this summer, with the highest annual salary per year in the NFL, however, it had only $70 million in guaranteed money. Even the richest contracts pale in comparison to the NBA.
At the ESPYs on Wednesday, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman sent a dire message to his fellow players about how they can make similar money.
“If we want as the NFL, as a union, to get anything done, players have to be willing to strike,” Sherman said, via ESPN. “That’s the thing that guys need to 100 percent realize.”
Sherman continued, saying that while sitting out will cost players money in the short term, they have to sacrifice to get bigger deals, pointing to the salaries of NBA and MLB players.
“You’re going to have to miss games, you’re going to have to lose some money if you’re willing to make the point, because that’s how MLB and NBA got it done. They missed games, they struck, they flexed every bit of power they had, and it was awesome. It worked out for them.”
Sherman also raised an interesting point about how NFL players view guaranteed money. Sherman said that players need to focus on getting shorter, 100% guaranteed deals as opposed to longer deals with team options. He pointed to the effectiveness of the short deals NBA players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant have signed.
“Most of these guys are like, ‘Oh, I want a six-year deal,'” Sherman said. “But only three is guaranteed, so why would I take a six-year deal? I don’t need a six-year deal. Give me a three, and then the salary cap is gonna bump again, and after three, I’m gonna re-up again.
“And then guys are like ‘Oh, well what if I get hurt?’ Well, if you get hurt after three, they’re probably gonna cut you, anyway. What’s the difference? … NBA players like KD and LeBron are sitting there taking two-year deals like it’s nothing. They figure, ‘I’ll take a two-year deal because I’m going to wait for the salary cap to increase and get another bite at the apple.’ In our sport, they won’t do it.”
Of course, there are counterarguments to Sherman’s points. In the NFL, as SB Nation’s Ryan Van Bibber notes, the average length of careers is shorter, about two-and-a-half years, so players are less likely to be okay with sitting out games.
Additionally, players like James and Durant are in the minority because they’re at the top of the NBA. They can afford to take short-term deals because the market will still be there for them if they were to get injured. Some other players also take short-term deals, but the gamble is greater. Likewise, in the NFL, there are likely only a few players who could get away with such a gamble, risk getting hurt, and still sign the same type of contracts if they did get injured.
The NFL CBA doesn’t expire until 2020, so unfortunately for NFL players, they’re going to have to ride out the current league standards for a while. But when it’s time to negotiate a new CBA, expect players to look to make a more player-friendly deal like what NBA players have gotten.