In many professional sports leagues, contracts are guaranteed. This is true for baseball, for example, and for basketball. In the MLB or the NBA, a player is given a set contract for a certain amount of years. Even if they are cut from the team, they still get paid that money, so they know that signing a guaranteed contract gives them some level of security.
This is important to them, of course, because sports by definition are not a very secure industry. One injury can end a person’s career. Guaranteed contracts mean that an athlete who has signed a major deal doesn’t have to worry about something out of their control derailing their family’s finances.
The NFL is different
However, the NFL is a bit different in this respect, in that guaranteed contracts are very rare and certainly not required under the collective bargaining agreement that was set up by the league and the NFLPA.
Instead, what usually happens is that NFL players are given a certain amount of guaranteed money, but then they have voidable years at the end of their contract, or they have bonuses that they can earn. For instance, a player on a five-year contract may only have the first two years guaranteed, so they can be cut in their third year and they won’t be paid anything more.
Some deals are changing
Interestingly, Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was able to sign a fully guaranteed contract when he joined the Browns. This was the first of its kind in the NFL, and it raises questions about whether or not the league will move in this direction.
To some degree, it will probably depend on the bargaining power of the players who are seeking these contracts. If there is enough demand, since a guaranteed contract is obviously much more attractive to a player than a contract with limited guarantees, teams may have to use this type of language in order to get the players that they want. It will be very interesting to see how contracts may change after Watson’s deal, in the years to come.
As these changes take place, athletes need to make sure they are well aware of all of their options.