Commentary | Revis, Burnett deals show disparity between NFL and MLB

adell@bradenton.comFebruary 16, 2014 

The NFL gets more for its dollar than Major League Baseball.

That's good for NFL owners and bad for the players.

Look at Darrelle Revis and A.J. Burnett, two $16 million guys who live on opposite spheres of the professional sports world.

When Revis signed his $16 million-per-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before last season, it raised eyebrows.

Revis was considered the best cornerback in the NFL and appeared well on his way to recovering from knee surgery.

But $16 million for a player who is not a quarterback is frowned upon, and the Bucs took some ridicule for giving him the richest deal ever afforded a cornerback.

After two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Burnett just signed a one-year, $16 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Nobody blinked an eye about the money.

Burnett had a good year, but won just 10 games last season. A superstar a la Revis he is not, and he is 37 years old. In 2008, the Yankees signed him to a five0year deal worth $82.5 million.

This numbers crunch defies logic.

Forbes Magazine last summer reported NFL teams are worth an average of $1.7 billion, while the average for Major League Baseball's teams is $744 million and $509 million for the NBA.

Forbes credited the NFL's hard salary cap in part for a 15.4 percent operating margin that is well above that of any other pro league.

So here is a message for Mary Jane and her husband, Billy Bob, who are sitting across the breakfast table from a 6-year-old son they plan on turning into a pro athlete:

Johnny Football may sound good, but Bobby Baseball makes more sense.

If your son is good enough to play professional sports, get him into baseball. He will make more money, have a longer career and have all his faculties when he is done.

This is more about Major League Baseball having the best players union in professional sports and the NFL the worst.

Major League Baseball and the NBA have a luxury tax that allows free spending owners to shell out more money if they are willing to pay a penalty. It's something Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Dan Snyder (Washington Redskins) would love, but they don't have much support among the other owners.

Only Russian scientists and Martian accountants can figure out the NFL pay system, but everyone knows it benefits the owners.

It was recently reported that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was paid $44 million during a year's pay period that ended in March 2013. In this year's Super Bowl, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson ($681,085) and cornerback Richard Sherman ($600,606), who created most of the interest in the game, were paid a pauper's wage in comparison.

Nearly $29 million of Goodell's salary was in the form of a $29 million bonus owners gave him for what critics said was a pro-management deal with the player's union.

Goodell is the highest-paid butler in America. His only job is to keep the riches flowing to the owners. If some of that cash trickles down to the players, it keeps the wheels moving.

If you want to know how Goodell earns his salary go back to a statement he made in June of 2008 after Jake Long received a $30 million guaranteed contract out of college. Goodell lamented the owner's plight and how they have to deal with stadium costs.

The rookie cap is a really a wage scale that is discriminatory, particularly against running backs. They are cheap labor for the first four years of their contract. By the fifth year, many are burned out and not considered worth the big money owners would prefer to give to quarterbacks, pass rushers and cornerbacks.

The players union has to take much of the blame, but you could argue it doesn't have the leverage of MLB and NBA because careers are so short and those high-priced quarterbacks are reluctant to sacrifice a year for the cause.

If the NFL players want to change things, they are going to have to take a stand and bite the bullet, perhaps in a lost season.

The owners don't fear that happening.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.

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