When the NFL lockout finally ends, the St. Louis Rams will have another record on the books, officially. QB Sam Bradford, the first overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, will be the highest paid rookie in the history of the game. Though the two sides are still haggling over the nuts and bolts of a rookie pay scale, whatever it finally looks like will not include six-year, $78 million, $50 million guaranteed, contracts for any player.
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What kind of deals would be best for fans?
That's fine. The salary system as it exists currently puts teams at tremendous financial risk. Scouting is a fine art, but a flawed science. Picks turn out wrong, costing teams millions and millions of dollars. As Rams fans, I shouldn't need to cite any examples. I do believe that in a world where NFL players are compensated as they are, Bradford, or any rookie quarterback being asked to shoulder the burdens of his team's history and carry it forward, deserves a princely sum.
And it's not like players won't still be handsomely rewarded. One proposal has the first pick getting a five-year, $34 million contract. The fifth year of the contracts is the issue for players, who want draft picks eligible to reach free agency soon, thus their four-year proposal. It's worth noting that this really only effects first-round picks, as players picked in the other rounds get four-year deals and those compensation numbers aren't really affecting the salary pool like the first 16 picks in the draft.
Within those proposals are some fixes to make it more palatable to all, including renegotiating windows for players after three years.
Think about this in terms of the Rams. They drafted North Carolina DE Robert Quinn at 14th overall. Last year, Quinn would have received a six-year deal, and this year he will probably get a five-year deal for considerably less. As a fan, I would rather see players get a five-year deal than a four. That would keep players in a Rams (or whatever team you fancy) uniform longer and cut down on the risk of watching that player leave via free agency. And if that player's a bust? We've been down that road before...trade him for a bag of balls, eat the loss and move on without him.