The madness of the NFL's rookie pay scale

April, 24, 2009
4/24/09
11:24
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

In anticipation of Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford's contract with Detroit, I put together an unofficial list of the NFL players with the most guaranteed money in their contracts.

This is what things have come to: Stafford, who has never played a down in the NFL, just set the league record for guaranteed money. His $41.7 million surpasses the $41 million Washington gave Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth during free agency.

Here is the list I compiled, which includes Haynesworth and six quarterbacks:

  1. Detroit quarterback Stafford: $41.7 million
  2. Washington defensive tackle Haynesworth: $41 million
  3. Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick: $37 million
  4. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: $36 million
  5. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan: $34.8 million
  6. Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning: $34.5 million
  7. Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell: $31.5 million
  8. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo: $30 million

We've talked often on this blog about how no team wants the No. 1 pick, and now you can see why: By one measure, Stafford is now the highest-paid player in the history of the NFL. The guaranteed portion of his contract represents a 40 percent increase over the $24 million that San Francisco had to give quarterback Alex Smith in 2005, and a 25 percent increase over what Oakland gave JaMarcus Russell just two years ago.

Good for Stafford. But eventually you would think the NFL and the NFL Players Association will collectively step in to stop this madness. Here is what commissioner Roger Goodell said about the issue Friday on ESPN Radio:

"It's really had a dramatic impact on the way we pay our players and the way teams are built in the draft. ... It's not that I'm opposed to the rookies getting money, I think that's great. But I think the veterans that have proven themselves on the NFL Level deserve the bulk of the compensation. When a player is drafted and doesn't make it and he takes that money out of the system, that's a disadvantage to the other players in the league. That's what I keep trying to get across. We need to keep the money in the system and it needs to go to the veterans that deserve it. ... It's a relatively simple fix if we sit down and address it."

More to come.

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