Last night, prior to Game 1 of the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals between the Detroit Pistons and the Boston Celtics, the NBA did their official lottery to determine the draft positions of the 14 NBA teams that didn't make the post-season. The Minnesota Timberwolves (the official NBA team of The Daily Norseman) will pick third overall when the NBA's selection meeting is held in about five weeks.
(This will probably result in the Wolves selecting either Brook Lopez or Kevin Love, which will indirectly result in me attempting to jump off of the roof of my house. But I digress.)
Last year's #3 NBA Draft selection was Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks. After he was drafted, the Hawks signed Horford to a deal that, according to HoopsHype, paid him about $3.7 million this year, will pay him $4 million next year, and $4.25 million the season after that.
Compare that to the guy that was selected #3 overall in the NFL Draft that occurred three weeks ago. The Atlanta Falcons signed QB Matt Ryan to a 6-year, $72 million contract with $34.7 million of that money being guaranteed. To put this in perspective, Ryan signed a contract that guarantees him more money than
-Every current starting NFL quarterback not named Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, or Carson Palmer
-Jake Long, who was selected by the Miami Dolphins with the #1 overall pick in the draft. . .and, most likely, Chris Long, who the St. Louis Rams took at #2
-Jared Allen, who led the NFL in sacks in 2007 and has averaged double-digit sacks over the course of his four-year NFL career
The list is a heck of a lot longer, but since we only have so much bandwidth to work with, I'll limit it to that.
The Falcons, as do many of the teams that select towards the top of the draft. . .Minnesota included, when it occurs. . .have to walk a fine line when it comes to signing those top picks, and the Ryan deal is a perfect example of that. The Ryan contract is a potential franchise killer for the Falcons. If Matt Ryan takes the field (this year or in the future) and is, in the words of latter-day American philosopher Homer Simpson, "the suckiest suck that ever sucked," then what are the Falcons going to do? Ryan's going to either a) stand on the sideline wearing a baseball cap or b) go out and get his teeth kicked in for the next six years. Either way, it's a drain on Atlanta's resources and inhibits their ability to do other things with their football team.
Now, if he's good, then this move by the Falcons is going to look really good a few years down the line. But as our friends over at the Falcoholic are saying. . .
The performance of Ryan aside, what good will it do this team to trot him out there? With the line constructed the way it is now, the chances of him making it through the season without get his brain rattled and basically nil. And with the defense the Falcons will likely be trotting out there, he should have plenty of opportunities to get out there and get destroyed. While I can talk myself into believing that Ryan will be a good quarterback in this league with time, I cannot reach into the vast abyss of logic and pull out anything to support this move. It's completely and totally indefensible.
And he's exactly right. Throwing a young quarterback out there on a bad team is a recipe for disaster. (See also: Couch, Tim and Leaf, Ryan) I know that our team is starting a young quarterback, too, but at least Tarvaris Jackson got a season or so to sit back and soak everything in before getting thrown to the Wolves. . .that and the players surrounding Jackson, particularly the offensive line, are better than what the Falcons have to offer Matt Ryan. That's my personal opinion, anyway.
But back to the main point here. . .with owners opting out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement yesterday, the time for a new labor negotiation is upon the owners and the player's union, and one of the first things that needs to be discussed is getting the rookie salary scale under control. There is NO reason for NFL teams to pay the amounts they're paying now to guys that haven't even attended an NFL Training Camp yet, never mind played in an NFL game. The NBA does it, and it's one of the few things that they actually do better than the NFL. The NBA doesn't have contract holdouts, they don't have to give potentially franchise-killing contracts to rookies. . .heck, even LeBron James had to earn his big payday. . .and teams know what they're getting into before they make their selections. Also, by giving less to the rookies, you'll have more money to go around for the older players that have actually EARNED their big paydays, which seems to be one of the bigger bones of contention between the players and the owners anyway.
The NFL needs to take a long, hard look at something like the NBA's rookie salary structure and adopt a similar program. In my opinion, it would go a long way towards delaying a possible work stoppage a few years down the line.