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Fully-guaranteed contracts would have unintended consequences

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The news that the NFL Players Association has filed a collusion claim arising from the allegedly collective resistance to giving fully-guaranteed contracts to “certain quarterbacks.” The effort will necessarily revive the debate regarding whether all contracts for NFL players should be fully guaranteed.

So let’s revive the basic reality that fully-guaranteed contracts for all players will have unintended consequences.

First, remember that all first-round draft picks now get four-year, fully-guaranteed deals. So they do happen. For veteran players, however, it’s more of a rarity — driven more by the leverage a player like Deshaun Watson has than anything else.

If the NFL were to evolve to the point at which all contracts were fully guaranteed, the contracts would become shorter in duration. The deals also may have less value, if they would be fully and completely locked in at signing.

Then there’s the possibility that a long-term, fully-guaranteed contract given to a veteran player who doesn’t earn it becomes a problem, given the salary cap. Every dollar that goes to a player who isn’t earning it becomes one less dollar that can go to a player who is earning it.

If, for example, the Broncos had fully-guaranteed Russell Wilson’s deal, Denver’s hands would be tied through 2028. No matter how well or poorly he plays. And then the Broncos would either have to play him because they’re paying him so much, or they’d have to bench him and find someone much cheaper to take the snaps.

Bottom line? Fully-guaranteed contracts for all players wouldn’t solve many problems. And if the owners were ever forced to do it, they’d likely become determined to exact their payback, in one way or another.

Thus, the better approach is for players who have earned a new contract (and who are eligible for one) to do everything they can to get paid while they can, when they can. And those players should be glad that there aren’t multiple fully-guaranteed deals for underperforming veterans chewing up cap space that otherwise could go to the guys who should be getting it.

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