NBA free agency makes waves among NFL players
Friday featured a continuous stream of news regarding average-to-no-name NBA players getting gigantic contracts, especially in comparison to NFL deals. Making the comparison even more glaring: NBA deals are fully guaranteed at signing.
For instance, Timofey Mozgov will receive $64 million over four years from the Lakers. Kent Bazemore will receive $70 million over four years from the Hawks. Joakim Noah will make $72 million over four years from the Knicks. Evan Turner will be paid $75 million over four years by the Portland Trail Blazers. Evan Fournier will make $85 million over five years with the Magic. DeMar DeRozan stayed in Toronto with a five-year, $139 million deal. Mike Conley will make $153 million over five years from the Memphis Grizzlies.
NFL players are noticing these deals, especially since earlier this week Colts quarterback Andrew Luck signed the richest deal in league history, at $139.125 million over six years, with $44 million fully guaranteed at signing. (As of Friday, $47 million became fully guaranteed.) DeRozan gets the same total deal (minus $125,000) for one fewer season -- and all of it is guaranteed.
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com has collected tweets from various NFL players, with Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams saying that he had to Google the names of some of the players who were signed on Friday and Broncos safety T.J. Ward proclaiming that NFL players make “peanuts” in comparison to NBA and MLB players.
As it relates to Ward’s own deal, he’s right. Ward’s contract is worth $22.5 million over four years, and only $7 million of it was fully guaranteed at signing.
While many are questioning the sanity of the NBA owners who handed out these deals (I don’t know enough about the NBA to comment, but really rich people typically didn’t get that way by being stupid), the differences between basketball and football are obvious. As Chris Mannix of TheVertical.com and NBC Sports Radio summarized it for me by text on Friday night, NBA teams have a maximum number of 15 players on the roster, with a salary cap of $94 million and a salary floor of $84.6 million.
NFL rosters, in contrast, have 53 players. Even though the per-team cap is much higher (at $155.27 million for 2016), the average cap space available per player in the NFL is $2.92 million. For NBA players, it’s $6.26 million.
Players who make it to the NBA also possess a more specialized and unique set of skills, since only 15 per team get jobs and only five players get on the court at a time. Also, NBA teams play 82 regular season games (41 of them on the road), with a much more extensive postseason tournament. NFL teams play only 16 regular-season games and at most four playoff games.
Besides, Friday’s money could have been even bigger. Mannix points out that NBA players currently get half of the league’s revenue. Prior to 2011, the players were getting 57 percent of it.
NFL players currently get 50 percent of the league’s revenue. Even if NFL players get a bigger piece of the pie in the next labor deal, the best football players in the world have a long way to go in order to be paid like the best basketball players in the world.