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Guaranteed money issue illustrates conflicting interests of players

The NFL could reportedly shorten the 2020 preseason to just one game as the league continues to negotiate with the NFLPA about safety precautions for the year.

Some NFL players have fully-guaranteed salaries for 2020. Most don’t. This disconnect becomes a potentially awkward spot in negotiations between the NFL and the NFL Players Association.

As explained on Sunday, players with fully-guaranteed salary in 2020 have begun to realize that the league wants to not pay supposedly fully-guaranteed money for any games lost due to the pandemic. Those players will surely want their fully-guaranteed money to be paid as part of any agreement reached between the NFL and the NFLPA.

But what about majority of NFL players, who don’t have fully-guaranteed salaries? If it gets them better terms under the final financial deal, they would be willing to accept a financial offer that potentially wipes out otherwise guaranteed pay in the event games are canceled.

With the exception of Chief defensive tackle Chris Jones and Titans running back Derrick Henry, who signed long-term contracts, this year’s franchise-tagged players will be playing under one-year guaranteed contracts in 2020. The franchise-tagged players will react negatively, for obvious reasons, if the guaranteed-salary rug gets pulled out from under them. One agent with extensive experience representing players suggested that those players could explore filing a lawsuit aimed at allowing them to leave the union in order to avoid an agreement that would undermine the terms of their individual contracts.

But what if the players with fully-guaranteed salaries get their money no matter what? All rookies with guaranteed 2020 salaries would be paid, like Packers quarterback Jordan Love. All veterans without guaranteed 2020 salaries would not be paid, like Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

And so it’s an issue that could indeed drive a wedge among and between different types of players, complicating the effort to find an approach that works for all players. For players with fully-guaranteed contracts, the only approach that may work is for “fully-guaranteed” to mean what it says.