Los Angeles Chargers offensive lineman Russell Okung watched Tuesday morning as news broke that Mike Trout, the star of the Los Angeles Angels and MLB, quietly signed a 10-year, $360 million mega-extension.
The guaranteed contract, common in the MLB, NBA and NHL, sent Okung to Twitter for a thread on the lack of them in the NFL. Okung is a vice president on the NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) executive committee and posted a similar thread in July 2018.
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His first thoughts this time around, highly relatable to any fan: “[It] means a football player can sign a 4-year contract, buy a house for his family, and get fired shortly after. Why does this happen?”
And that money is built on the backs and biceps of players such as Okung. Okung argues that the high risk of injury is “an illogical argument” and that risk is “exactly why a baseline guaranteed income is justified.”
Okung is focused on the NFL’s “funding rule,” which requires teams to put the guaranteed money not yet paid out in an escrow account that holds conditions. It forces teams to put the money aside all at once, giving them an excuse to simply not make the guaranteed deal at all.
Salary wise the average NFL salary — which takes into account those making the bare minimum and is scaled up due to the superstar’s salaries — was $2.7 million in 2017, per CNBC data. The average MLB salary is $4 million and the average NBA salary is $7.1 million, per the site. And players in those leagues get the money whether injury befalls them or not.
While it’s easy to look at the massive contracts aging NFL stars sign, not to mention lucrative endorsement deals that bolster their earnings, most players don’t make that much or stay that long. The average length of an NFL career is about three years, per reports; That number dropped in the 2010s and is very position- and accolades-dependent.