Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Neil Cornrich a Guest Expert on Sirius NFL Radio

February 26, 2008 associate editor Jason Feller sat with Pat Kirwan and Vic Carucci during their "End Zone" show on Sirius Satellite Radio live from the Scouting Combine. The following observations were gleaned with help from their conversations with Colts president Bill Polian and agent Neil Cornrich.

Rookie wage scale

The increasing price tag on high draft picks has become a growing issue in recent years.

Rookies at the top of the draft consistently become the highest paid players at their positions, without ever having played a snap at the pro level.

QB JaMarcus Russell, last year's No. 1 overall pick, signed a contract that reportedly included some $29 million in guaranteed money, then started only one game and appeared in only three others.

The concern is two-fold. First, teams are concerned about investing so much money and salary-cap space in an unproven player. Second, veterans who were not drafted high but who have produced at a high level often make far less than top rookies who might never pan out in the NFL.

Colts president Bill Polian voiced his displeasure with the system on the show and went into further detail about his frustrations in an interview with the Associated Press .

The model that comes up as a potential replacement is the NBA system in which rookies are slotted into set compensation levels based on where they are drafted.

According to the NBA's collective bargaining agreement: "Each Rookie Scale Contract between a Team and a First Round Pick shall cover a period of two (2) Seasons, but shall have an Option in favor of the Team for the player's third Season and a second Option in favor of the Team for the player's fourth Season."

That system helps offset the risk involved in making high draft choices and also gives a larger portion of the pie to veteran players who have proven their abilities.

However, not everyone likes the idea of a rookie salary scale.

Agent Neil Cornrich offered his dissenting opinion during the show.

He asserted that the only reason the concept of a draft was palatable to players at all was because of the high level of compensation. He noted that players coming out of college forfeit the right to negotiate with the team of their choice by applying for the draft. Without the big contracts provided in the current system, surrendering that freedom of choice to the draft concept would not be in the players' best interests.

Cornrich added that the rookie contracts help veterans get better deals by setting a standard for the market.

Whichever side you're on, the fact is this issue is far from resolved and will continue to linger as rookie contracts continue to grow.

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