Okay, I just want to weigh in on one aspect of the draft that does not deal with the Falcons. It specifically deals with the Oakland Raiders and who they select with the first overall pick this year, assuming they don’t trade down.
I’ve been tuning into ESPN a lot these past few weeks, watching their SportsCenter Specials and NFL Live, which deal almost exclusively with the upcoming draft. Why? First off, I’m a huge draftnik, have been for the past 7 years, and also because I live in North Carolina, so no NFL Network, which means all my televised NFL news must come via ESPN.
But anyway, the prevailing sentiment among the “experts” at ESPN are that the Raiders must take a QB (i.e. JaMarcus Russell) with the No. 1 pick, because of that need. But frankly, I disagree.
Why? Mainly because of money. Whomever is the No. 1 overall pick will be the 3rd highest paid player in NFL history by my accounts. Mario Williams received $26.5 million guaranteed last year as the No. 1 choice. From what I know only Peyton Manning ($34 million in bonuses) and Michael Vick ($37 million) have banked more than that in terms of the guaranteed part of their deals. Although I believe technically Manning and Vick’s bonuses weren’t guaranteed, but instead were more like “99% assured.” But if there is a 10% increase from Williams’s monster contract, that means Russell or whoever the Raiders choose could be banking in excess of $29 million. The Falcons gave out a total of $16.5 million in bonus money to its chief off-season additions of Horn, Mughelli, Harrington, Sanders, and Wilkins this year. So it’s roughly the equivalent of two off-seasons worth of moves.
But anyway, considering that draft history clearly shows us that drafting 1st round QBs is a 50/50 proclamation at best, why should the Raiders be so quick to throw so much money at another one? The Raiders other choice seems to be everybody’s No. 1 player, Calvin Johnson. Of course I realize that drafting wide receivers is about as successful if not significantly less than drafting a quarterback. But still I’m scratching my head.
Unless you’re absolutely sure that JaMarcus Russell or Brady Quinn is going to be an outstanding pro, why spend so much money on them? When we’re talking about the money that is going to be paid to such players nowadays without ever playing a down in the NFL, rather than drafting for need, how bout you take the player that you are most confident won’t suck?
I mean people crucified the Texans for passing on the talent in Reggie Bush last year, and going for need with Mario Williams. So why should the Raiders do the exact same thing this year?
I realize that if the Raiders want to find a franchise QB capable of leading that team back to glory, they will likely have to spend a first round pick on one. But I just think you have to be meticulous on whether you believe that player is Russell or any other passer in this draft. Fact is, if you make the right pick, you can reap the ultimate dividends. If you make the wrong one, you’re going to be in the exact same situation 4 or 5 years later (see Detroit Lions). And basically for the Raiders, that will be a more expensive mistake than any other team has made to date.
If I was the NFL ownership, next time the CBA is set to be renegotiated (2011?), I would try to install a slotted salary system for incoming rookies, much like the NBA has. These bonuses are getting out of hand. My solution would be to have the No. 1 overall pick have a maximum non-negotiable signing bonus of 10% of whatever the salary cap is. So if the salary cap is $120 million for that year, the No. 1 pick will automatically pocket $12 million. And then decide certain increments thereafter for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so on picks. In my eyes, this is a genius solution for these reasons:
1) It nearly eliminates rookie holdouts. Teams, agents, and players know what a player is going to get, because there is less maneuvering in the finite amounts of bonuses a rookie can receive.
2) The owners certainly will agree to this because they won’t have to pay $30+ million to unproven players anymore.
3) The NFLPA should agree to this since with less money being tied up by rookies, that’s more money potentially going into the pockets of the veterans, who are the main constituency of the union.
4) This helps teams because if you draft a bust, it won’t be as crippling to your team for years and years if you only pay him $15 million as opposed to double that.