For the most part, I actually really enjoy the off season. I’m like a kid in a candy shop, looking at all the new draft prospects, wondering which ones are going to be the key to victory. Deprived of actual football games, we talk about stats, injury histories, accomplishments, records, upsides, risky chances, and all the immense talent. And salaries.
Inevitably, as we try to develop the best team possible, we’re forced to say goodbye to talented guys because they are demanding a salary we simply cannot pay. It’s the tragedy of the commons, pure and simple. The pot of money is limited, and each player wants to get as much of it as possible. I can’t blame them, they have a short amount of time to play their best ball, and after that the money has to last (unless of course they actually paid attention in college). Is there a better way to do things?
"We all do better, when we all do better" -Wellstone
If Aaron Rodgers thinks that Woodson should play another year, why not put his money where his mouth is? Rodgers knows exactly why Woodson is in danger of getting cut - his own contract extension. The problem is that the goal of the player is not aligned with the goal of the team and organization. The team wants to win Super Bowls. I’m not saying the players don’t want to get some new shiny rings, but when it comes to their salary, players repeatedly will take a bigger paycheck and play for a less successful team. What if Rodgers and Matthews said that they would rather make no more than $10M/year if it meant that the money saved could be used to bring in or keep key play makers that would help the team as a whole win more?
You’re right, that’s not how economics usually works, is it? And there will still be greedy players that will ask to be overpaid because there is now more money available due to the sacrifice of a few players (although I still can’t feel bad for someone making $10M/year). The problem is that there’s still not a strong enough incentive to go along with this altruistic salary. When the Packers won the Super Bowl in 2010, each player got a paltry $83,000 bonus. What if that bonus was $500,000? NBC made $250M in ad revenue alone for the Super Bowl. In fact, to cover the $500,000 bonuses paid to the winning team and $250,000 bonuses paid to the losers, NBC only has to run 11 30-second commercials.
Now yes, I realize that an extra $500,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to the massive pay cut I’m asking of Rodgers. Right now it’s every man for himself, with an expectation that every new contract will be bigger than the last. But does it need to be that way? Maybe it just needs one star player that’s willing to set a new trend.
Am I delusional? Almost certainly. But what say you? If you had no idea how much other quarterbacks in the league made, how much would you pay Rodgers, knowing that it affected how many other key players you could keep?