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Rookie wage scale details demonstrate that owners lost battle, won war

2011 NFL Draft

during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.

Chris Trotman

On Thursday, the NFL and the NFLPA* struck a deal on the rookie wage scale. Based on the two positions that were detailed in a memo we obtained earlier in the week, it’s clear that the NFL adopted almost entirely what the players were seeking.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that, as expected, all first-round picks will be signed to four-year contracts, with an option for the fifth year. As to the first 10 picks, the fifth-year salary, if the team exercises the option, will equate to the average of the 10 highest-paid players at the same position. As to the next 22 picks in round one, the fifth-year salary will reflect the average of the third to 25th highest-paid players at the position.

The players, as of last week, had asked for the first half of round one to get a salary worth the average salary of the top 10 players at the same position. For the second half of round one, the number would have come from the top 20 players at the position.

In the end, the players got almost exactly what they wanted, with only six players left out of the top-10 average pay, and with the average pay figures for picks 11 through 32 omitting the top two players and adding in three more at the back end. This year, the teams that will be helped and the players that will be hurt by the final outcome are the Texans and defensive end J.J. Watt (pictured with James Harrison’s BFF), the Vikings and quarterback Christian Ponder, the Lions and defensive tackle Nick Fairley, the Rams and defensive end Robert Quinn, the Dolphins and center Mike Pouncey, and the Redskins and defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, respectively.

But the other 22 lose as well. The ultimate outcome of the rookie wage scale represents a major victory for the league, with the total pay of the top 10 picks dropping by anywhere from 40 to 55 percent. The money will now be shifted to veterans and retired players.