NFL players try to channel their NBA brethen

JAIME C. HARRIS | 9/19/2019, 6:42 p.m.
Last January, when Anthony Davis and his agent Rich Paul informed the New Orleans Pelicans they wanted the organization to ...
Anthony Davis Bill Moore photo

Last January, when Anthony Davis and his agent Rich Paul informed the New Orleans Pelicans they wanted the organization to trade the six-time NBA All-Star and three-time All NBA First Team forward, it was a demand that was sure to be met.

Employing the leverage franchise caliber players hold, Paul informed the Pelicans that the then 25-year-old Davis had no intention of signing a long-term contract extension with the team when he was set to become a free-agent in the summer of 2020. It was a poorly kept secret that Davis wanted to become a Los Angeles Laker and pair up with LeBron James. Ultimately, Davis’ desire was fulfilled as the Pelicans dealt him to the Lakers in June.

It was just one trade request of several in recent memory that star NBA players and their agents have orchestrated. With fully guaranteed contracts, they are in positions of power that most NFL players envy. But the latter are increasingly channeling their NBA bethren in trying to escape unhappy circumstances with their current teams. A majority are seeking more lucrative contracts while others are endeavoring to remove themselves from toxic and losing environments.

Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon and former Miami Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick have all sought trades, or been traded in the case of Fitzpatrick, early in this NFL season. And rumor has it Jets safety Jalen Adams also may be eyeing a new home. However, their status and influence on a team’s success and dynamics is vastly dissimilar than that of NBA players.

Moreover, the league’s disparate collective bargaining agreements have established NBA players as virtual partners of owners while NFL players, who are working under non-guaranteed contracts, are manifestly rank and file employees.

An elite NBA star can be the difference between a team merely making the playoffs or winning a title. Kawhi Leonard proved that last season when after forcing a trade from the San Antonio Spurs and landing with the Toronto Raptors, he led the Raptors to their first-ever NBA championship and was named the Finals MVP.

It is rare that an NFL player other than a top quarterback can impact a team to the degree that they can transform them from a borderline playoff contender to a Super Bowl champion. QBs Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson demanding to be traded by the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks respectively would be comparable to Davis and Leonard asking out.

Ramsey, Gordon and Fitzpatrick, who was traded by the Dolphins to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday, can be significant additions to a team but not the missing pieces to elevate a franchise to a champion. And football players have much shorter primes than NBA players. Particularly running backs. It is why the market is limited for the 26-year-old Gordon.

While he is still under contract for $5.6 million on a fifth year option on his rookie contract, the two-time Pro Bowler has not played this season as he holds out for a new deal. But no one is knocking down the Chargers’ doors to acquire Gordon.

He’s frustratingly learned the clear distinction between the NFL and the NBA.