With many of the top picks signed, many NFL fans are wondering why the two most hyped picks in the draft, Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck and Washington’s Robert Griffin III, have not been signed to contracts when there is now a rookie wage scale in place to make their contracts easier.
The answer lies in a critical part of the contracts called “off-set language”.
Put most simply, off-set language is a part of a player’s contract that concerns what happens to a player’s pay if they are cut from a team. Most NFL contracts have this off-set language written in to protect the teams that sign players. In simple terms how it works is that if a player is cut from the team and is still owed guaranteed money, the team is still on the hook for that salary. However, if that player signs elsewhere and there was off-set language in his contract with the previous team then any salary he earns from his new team takes away from what he gets from his previous team. If there was no off-set language then the player would get all the money he is signed for on his new team AND gets all the money in his new deal.
Let me give you an example. Player A is cut by the Vikings. The Vikings still owe him $1 million. Player A then signs with the Steelers for $3 million. If the player’s previous contract has off-set language then he would receive just the $3 million from the Steelers and the Vikings wouldn’t have to pay him a dime. If there was no off-set language then the player would earn his $3 million from the Steelers AND still get his $1 million from the Vikings for a total of $4 million.
If you think you’ve never heard this before then it’s probably because you’ve never heard it quite like this before. Remember Jake Delhomme’s big contract from Carolina a couple of years ago? That contract had no off-set language in it which was why when he was cut you heard all this talk about him making big money because he signed with Cleveland that season. He wasn’t earning big money with the Browns but that year he made around $20 million which if memory serves technically made him the highest paid quarterback in the NFL.
Coming back to Luck and Griffin, there is some debate as to whether both will get the off-set language removed. In 2011 Cam Newton signed a contract with no off-set language but #2 pick Von Miller DID have off-set language which is giving the contract negotiators a headache. With the truncated way the season was last year and the way the contracts were rushed through a bit it is still up for debate whether rookies should have off-set language removed at all while RG3’s representatives are trying to argue the other way that because he was essentially 1A to Andrew Luck that he deserves whatever Luck gets no matter what happened with the #2 pick last year with the only difference being that RG3 will get less money – I can tell you for a fact that his contract will be for four years, worth $21 million and all of it guaranteed money.
Fear not Colts and Redskins fans – this is a standard part of contract negotiation. Your golden boys will be signed fairly soon after the officials on both sides get back from summer break and you can expect both franchise quarterbacks to be in training camp no problem. Still, just goes to show that even when the NFL and NFLPA do everything they can to make things easy there’s always a way for lawyers and agents to make their money.