Monday Morning Joe: The widening gap in NFL and NBA salaries

Nov 27, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) celebrates with game ball after a NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Panthers 45-42. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Author’s Note: In this edition of cover32’s Monday Morning Joe, we take a look at the disparity between NBA and NFL player contracts. Be sure to follow us on Twitter: @cover32_NE and send us your questions and comments using #cover32MMJ.

It’s an extraordinary time to be an NBA superstar. Or even a middle of the pack player for that matter. In the NFL, only the best of the best, make the same type of money some of the mid-level NBA players do. None of them reach the monster contracts recently signed by some of the NBA’s superstars.

The NBA Champion Golden State Warriors signed star Steph Curry to a five-year $201 million extension, making him the first $200 million man. Shortly thereafter, the Houston Rockets gave James Harden the richest deal in NBA history, a reported four-year, $170 million dollar extension.


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In contrast, Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr just signed the richest deal in NFL history, a mere $125 million over five years. It’s is still a large amount of money to the average American. However it pails in comparison to their NBA counterparts. What makes the disparity even larger is that only $40 million of that deal is fully-guarantee as opposed to the entirety of an NBA contract.

Sure, it’s hard to sympathize with millionaires and even richer millionaires money issues. However, the brutal nature of football and the short half-life of an NFL star does make it an issue. At least in the eyes of some of it’s past and current players.

Former NFL defensive lineman Terrance Knighton seems to think the only way the players can get what they deserve is to strike. And he may be right.

Several years ago, when the current collective bargaining agreement was struck, the players and the National Football League squared off to which the players eventually caved to avoid missing playing time. And ultimately game checks.

Monday Morning Joe
Patriots owner Robert Kraft and former Colts center, Jeff Saturday, embrace as the CBA is agreed to in 2011. Photo Credit:

The iconic image of Robert Kraft and Jeff Saturday embracing at the podium as a new 10-year CBA was agreed on was celebrated by many. However, the harsh reality is that the owners obliterated the players and the NFLPA in labor negotiations. In 2010, first overall pick, Sam Bradford, received the last of the massive rookie deals, signing a deal with $70 million guaranteed. The following year, the first of the new CBA, first overall pick Cam Newton signed a contract that TOTALED just over $22 million over four years.

The owners also got the lion’s share of the revenue, which continues to grow at an exponential rate. Much to the chagrin of current NFL players that have watched their salaries shrink with the new pay scale.

“The NFLPA absolutely failed the NFL players,” said one agent via The Boston Globe. “It’s the worst CBA in professional sports history. It’s pushing the veterans out of the game and cuts the rookie pay in half. How is that a good deal?”

In the spirit of the CBA, the money saved on the massive rookie deals supposed to transfer to some of the veterans, however, the opposite has taken effect. Teams would prefer to save money on younger talent as opposed to spending extra money on a veteran. Especially when unused cap space can roll over to the next season.

With that said, NFL teams are seeing revenue climb as they spend less. The Green Bay Packers, according to the Boston Globe, saw a net profit of $22 million in the two years preceding the new CBA. In the two years following the CBA (the article was written in 2013), the Packers net profit skyrocketed to over $85 million. The same has happened to most teams across the NFL landscape, at the expense of the players.

Most of these issued were masked, however, as good did come from the CBA. Perhaps the biggest positive: the near $700 million dollars allotted to the retired player’s fund that helped increase pension and retirement funds for past players. However, if you ask most players, they would prefer to see the money now than years in the future.

Nothing can change until the 2021 season when the CBA is set to expire since there is no opt out clause. When that time comes, the players need to stand their ground in order to get what they want. Even if that means losing some football in the process. The owners know that they ultimately hold the upper hand in any negotiation because the average NFL player’s career is so short that one lost season could put a huge financial burden on a lot of players.

However, if drastic changes don’t get made, the NFL teams and their owners will continue to watch the record profits roll in at the expense of the players. At this rate, NFL players will never see the record contracts seen in the NBA. However, they can increase their worth by doing something that most feel the players won’t do and that’s to sacrifice games and game checks for the greater good.

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– Ian Glendon is a National Co-Editor for cover32 and the Managing Editor for cover32/Patriots. He covers the NFL and New England Patriots. Like and follow on and Facebook.

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  • Jonathan Gardner

    NFL players can’t ever see NBA salaries. Look, it’s simple math. There are 450 players in the NBA; 1696 players in the NFL. For NFL players to make similar money, they’d have to bring in 4x the NBA’s revenue. They aren’t; it’s $4-5 billion more. Yes, the players screwed themselves in the last CBA but even if they had the same revenue split, it’s $4.08 billion to be divided among 450 players in the NBA versus $6.63 billion to divide among 1696 NFL players. If you want to give Brady James Harden money, you’re basically asking several players on the Patriots to play for free.