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Generation Gap

June 02, 2008
June 02, 2008

Table of Contents
June 2, 2008

SI Players: LIFE ON AND OFF THE FIELD
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Generation Gap

Hefty rookie contracts have NFL vets steamed

IT WAS the perfect storm for a monster payday: A quarterback drafted third overall by a team desperate for some positive p.r., with an agent famous for pushing. That's how the richest rookie contract in NFL history—Matt Ryan's six-year, $66 million deal, with $34.75 million guaranteed and an additional $6 million in incentives possible—got done in Atlanta last week. But inside the football business it was not a popular signing. Both veteran players and club officials believe salaries for high-drafted rookies are out of control. Ryan's per-year deal is 28% higher than last year's third pick, Browns tackle Joe Thomas. "It's a little disheartening," NFLPA president Kevin Mawae said. "It makes it tough for a guy who's proven himself to say, 'I want that kind of money,' when the owners, all they're going to say is, 'Well, you weren't a first-round pick.'"

This is an article from the June 2, 2008 issue

The Ryan deal, nearly $1 million more per year than 2007 top pick JaMarcus Russell got from the Raiders, is a clear sign that teams can't police themselves when it comes to rookie salaries. In the last six months the Falcons have seen Michael Vick go to prison for his role in a dogfighting ring, watched first-year coach Bobby Petrino bolt for Arkansas with three games left in the '07 season and been jilted by Bill Parcells. No wonder that when the Falcons decided on Ryan, president Rich McKay called Ryan's agent, Tom Condon, and said, "You know where we are. Can you do this early?'' Condon had the edge, and he used it.

There's little question that when owners and players sit down to redo their collective bargaining agreement—the teams voted last week to opt out of the current deal after the 2010 season—a rookie wage scale will be on the table. But NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw is on record as loving splashy rookie deals, believing they have a trickle-down effect on veteran salaries. He has some disciples too. Cleveland wideout Braylon Edwards told SI, "Peyton Manning's got to love the Ryan deal, because it just means eventually he's going to get paid more. If the owners stop paying rookies, it's a dream to think they're just going to hand the money to the veterans.''

Go Figure

2
Returning scholarship players the Indiana basketball team will have next season; four players have been cut since the end of last season.

5
Complete games by Blue Jays righthander Roy Halladay through Sunday, putting him on pace for a total of 16 this season.

21
Years since a pitcher had more than 15 complete games in a season; Roger Clemens had 18 in 1987.

2,584
Games played at shortstop by the Giants' Omar Vizquel through Sunday; he passed Luis Aparicio for the most at the position.

95 mph
Robbie Knievel's speed when he jumped 24 delivery trucks on his motorcycle in Mason, Ohio, last Saturday, a stunt dedicated to his late father, Evel.

PHOTORAY STUBBLEBINE/REUTERS (RYAN)GREEN THUMB Ryan's deal topped that of last year's No. 1 and angered Mawae (top).PHOTOJOE MURPHY/GETTY IMAGES (MAWAE)[See caption above]