Earlier this week NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called the implementation of a rookie salary cap a "critical" part of the CBA negotiations with the NFLPA.
From the NFLPA perspective, they would argue that it's the team's decision to pay this money -- not the players. They would also point out that first round picks are guaranteed an average of $11 million. The other picks are hardly that lucrative. Second round picks are guaranteed an average of $2 million and all other picks are guaranteed a max of $668,000.
It seems as if both sides are willing to change the current system which currently pays the top 12 picks an disproportional amount of guaranteed money and often traps late round rookies into contracts which they outperform.
The NFLPA's answer is the Proven Performance Plan.
In a nutshell, it would shorten the life of rookie contracts and create savings for underpaid players as well as retired players.
Here's how it would work:
First, it entails shortening rookie contracts to a max of three years. This takes care of the problem that clubs often face of paying a player picked high in the draft a lot of money when he ultimately ends up as a bust. It would also allow players who have outperformed their contracts to negotiate market friendly deals sooner.
Second, the NFLPA says this would save clubs approximately $200 million.
$150 million of this would go to a Proven Performance Fund which would award rookies and veterans who signed contracts that are below what their market value is. The NFLPA also proposes the remaining $50 million in savings be devoted to retired players with NFL owners matching that each year to create an extra $100 million per year for retired players.
Commissioner Goodell has previously said that if rookie contracts are leveled out, the savings could then go to veteran players. However, the NFLPA would point to the over $400 million in unused cap space as evidence that the owners won't necessarily use any savings on the veteran players.
The NFLPA's plan is similar to the performance-based pay system that was in place before the salary cap went away. The difference is that the total money would be more (last year the performance based-pay system was just over $100 million) and a portion of it would go to retired players.
It's an interesting plan and, even though the league has rejected it, it's a good start for both sides because, at the very least, it's a proposal, which means they're talking. The only way a new CBA will get done is if both sides continue to talk.