The One-Sided Nature of the NFL Compensation Structure Explained

John Mullin at takes a thoughtful and interesting look at the contract situations of both running back Matt Forte and tight end Martellus Bennett. One general statement that he makes stands out to me:

“Understand that the matter of contracts are anything but simple, much more complicated than just declaring, ‘you’ve got a contract, you have to honor it.’ The problem with that, as Brian Urlacher once correctly noted, when teams want (read: ‘demand’) a player to take a pay cut, the public rarely applies that dictum to teams, only when a player is demanding a pay raise. That’s just the nature of the NFL compensation structure.”

Make no mistake. By “public” Urlacher and Mullin both mean “fans”. And there’s a reason for this bias.

The advent of free agency was a great boon for players in all sports leagues where it exists. But it’s created a bit of a problem for them as well. Any player anywhere can, and frequently does, choose to leave. That means that the only thing a fan knows he can depend upon to be there in future years, assuming there’s good support, is the team. And that makes most people fans of the franchise, not the individual players. Add on the fact that the player might be saying, “I want more money” but fans hear, “I want you to pay more for tickets” and you’ve got your explanation for the one-sided nature of public opinion.

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