When it comes to contract negotiations between NFL draftees and their teams, it’s pretty simple; you get paid according to where you were selected.
Former Texas Tech All-American wide receiver Michael Crabtree is trying to turn the entire draft pay scale on its ear. Crabtree, taken 10th overall by the San Francisco 49ers in April, is looking to get paid a lot more than what the 10th pick should get.
We live in a free enterprise system. Maximizing you earning potential is the way it works in this country. But Crabtree is taking this a bit too far.
Here’s the long and short of it. Crabtree was rated as the top receiver by most reputable draft experts and media outlets. The Oakland Raiders, who had the 7th overall pick, were in desparate need of a wide receiver to team with JaMarcus Russell. As usual, Al Davis threw a curve. Rather than take Crabtree with the pick, the Raiders took Darrius Heyward-Bey. Speculation for the Raiders decision has been running rampant. But no one really knows.
Heyward-Bey received a contract worth $38 million, including $23.5 million in guaranteed money.
After slipping three spots to 10th and being selected by the 49ers, a dismayed Crabtree huddled with his advisors and demanded top 5-pick money from San Francisco.
Here’s the reasoning. Crabtree, based on where he was rated by the various draft experts, felt as if he was better than Heyward-Bey and therefore should get paid more. He’s serious. So serious that his advisor and cousin David Wells had this to say in the weeks following draft:
“We are prepared to [sit out this season re-enter the NFL Draft in 2010]. Michael just wants fair-market value. They took him with the 10th pick and you have Darrius Heyward-Bey getting $38 million? This week is critical. Michael was one of the best players in the draft and he just wants to be paid like one of the best players. This week is very critical.”
If Crabtree thinks he has any leverage, he better think again and here’s why.
Next season will be an uncapped year in the NFL. In other words, teams will be free to spend as much or as little as they want on players. This season the salary cap is $128 million. The minimum is $112.1 million. What does that mean for Crabtree?
If he re-enters the draft, teams looking for a wide receiver won’t want to pay top dollar. Unless you are on the level of Randy Moss or Larry Fitzgerald, wide receivers come a dime a dozen. So Instead of taking Crabtree with a top 10 pick, a team, knowing he is likely to slip because he sat out a year, will trade down and take him later so they can pay him less.
Another issue facing Crabtree if he sits out this season is if the NFL comes to an agreement with the NFL players union. If they do agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement before the 2010 season, there is certain to be a rookie wage scale in the deal. That means the days or rookies getting $20, $30 and $40 million signing bonuses will be long gone. It will be like the NBA where the top picks can only make a certain amount.
Finally, if he re-enters the draft, he may not be picked in the top 10 next year. With star quarterbacks Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and Oklahoma State stud receiver Dez Bryant coming out, Crabtree could slip out of the top 10.
If Crabtree is serious about securing his financial future, he needs to get his head in the present.