The Art of Team Building
Cooperation between athletes and organizations is the most important aspect needed to successfully build a contending roster in the NFL. While the salary cap continues to get higher and higher every year, the market set for the salary of certain positions also continues to grow exponentially annually. General managers of sports franchises now face the difficult challenge of allocating their salary resources to an entire 53-man roster while some positions, namely the quarterbacks, continue to command close to a quarter of the salary cap yearly.
It is my belief the NFL should institute a policy limiting just how much of the salary cap a single player can receive which would result in a better product for the league rather than allowing franchises to be handicapped and hamstrung by their most important players. Accordingly, while the players themselves should also sacrifice some of their earnings in order to create ultimate team success as displayed by longtime New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady. To support this belief, a 2015 study conducted by Max Winsberg of Claremont McKenna College on the relationship between player compensation and team performance found that there is no real positive correlation between the overcompensation of players and overall team performance.
This type of policy has been successfully instituted among giant corporations and businesses successfully in the past. An article released in The Baltimore Sun written by Blanca Torres outlines the general overview of CEO salaries and what he or she means to their respective companies. Torres suggests that the system for setting CEO pay is “flawed and not based enough on performance.” This can be very similar to the NFL in that the absurd amount of money the Quarterback receives can cause teammates to become resentful as they are who help him win games and he is restricting them from getting the money they feel they deserve.
Being a “team player” is one of the most important qualities to have being a professional athlete. Former Patriots Quarterback, Tom Brady, is the prime example of how working with your organization can result in much success in the athletic industry. Logically speaking, taking less money would result in an organization or franchise having more money to move around the rest of the roster and better the 21 other positions to take the field on Sundays during the NFL season.
Tom Brady spent every season while in a Patriots uniform taking less money “sacrificing to put his team in a better position” as stated in Business Insider’s Scott Davis in his article “Tom Brady sacrificed at least $60 million in his career helping the Patriots buld Super Bowl-winning rosters”. Davis in his investigation found that if Brady consistently signed equal deals to the top Quarterback contracts in his contract years, he would have made $60 million more than the $287.6 million he actually made in those seasons. Through all of his negotiations and contract restructures, he allowed for his team to re-sign key players in free agency resulting in successful roster constructions and one of, if not the best dynasty in all of professional sports.
Winning the Super Bowl is the goal of every franchise heading into each NFL season. One of the best ways to do this ironically enough has nothing to do with on field player performance. While players and their performance are very important for teams and their championship quests, the events behind the scenes of player development and evaluation can have just as big of an effect on a teams success as on field performance.
The 2013 Seattle Seahawks are a perfect example of how successful drafting can lead a team to success. Bleacher Report reporter Ty Schalter and his article “The Art of Navigating the NFL Salary Cap” details just how the Seahawks were able to successfully win a championship through number crunching and player evaluation. The Seahawks offensive and defensive units were led by two elite level players at premium positions who were signed to mid round rookie deals in QB Russell Wilson and Cornerback Richard Sherman allowing for the cap flexibility to address their other needs heading into the season.
How you may ask, was this accomplished? Through the advantages of rookie contracts. Having that type of cap flexibility allowed for the team to bite the bullet on certain players who did not perform up to the standards of their contracts, such as Percy Harvin in particular on that Seahawks roster who was essentially paid millions to play ONE complete game for that entire season. While it may not be the most ‘sexy’ method of roster construction, being a General Manager or a Scouting Director has just as big of an effect on the performance of a team than the players do.
A study done by the International Journal of Forecasting on the effectiveness of allocating resources revealed that the Seattle Seahawks were among the teams with the highest uncompensated wins from 2011-2015 due to their successful drafting and high level production from players on low rookie-contract salaries (Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman).
As previously stated, Quarterbacks are almost always the highest paid players on any roster because of their importance to overall team performance. As important as the Quarterback is to an NFL team, these utterly massive contracts being doled out to them are having a serious effect on their teams ability to surround them with enough talent to allow them to succeed as a team. For example, FanNation’s Conner Christopherson in his article “Do Massive Quarterback Contracts Limit Teams in the Long Run” talks about the most recent massive extension given to Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback Patrick Mahomes which was worth $500 million.
The most important factor in the Chiefs recent success has been the complete roster that has taken the field year after year around Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes has been very successful in the past 2 seasons with that complete roster which leads many to question when the extension begins, will this level of success be sustainable? Recent history points to no.
Christopherson, Conner. “Do Massive Quarterback Contracts Limit Teams in the Long Run?” Sports Illustrated Kansas City Chiefs News, Analysis and More, Sports Illustrated Kansas City Chiefs News, Analysis and More, 28 Aug. 2020, http://www.si.com/nfl/chiefs/gm-report/do-massive-quarterback-contracts-limit-teams-in-the-long-run.
Davis, Scott. “Tom Brady Sacrificed at Least $60 Million in His Career Helping the Patriots Build Super Bowl-Winning Rosters.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 17 Mar. 2020, http://www.businessinsider.com/tom-brady-contract-discounts-patriots-bargain-2018-7.
Mulholland, Jason. “Optimizing the allocation of funds of an NFL team under the salary cap.” 28 Dec. 2018, https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy.rowan.edu/science/article/pii/S0169207018301559#b11.
Schalter, Ty. “The Art of Navigating the NFL Salary Cap.” Bleacher Report, Bleacher Report, 19 Sept. 2017, bleacherreport.com/articles/1956430-the-art-of-navigating-the-nfl-salary-cap.
Torres, Blanca. “Debate Swirls around CEO Pay.” Baltimoresun.com, Baltimore Sun, 6 Apr. 2019, http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bal-bz.ex.payequity15may15-story.html.
Winsberg, Max. “Player Compensation and Team Performance: Salary Cap Allocation Strategies across the NFL.” 1 Dec. 2014, https://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://scholar.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=2080&context=cmc_theses.