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All Risk, No Guarantee

The NFL is easily the most popular and profitable sports league in North America, yet it is the only one not to offer guaranteed contracts to its players. Generally speaking, only one year is guaranteed on a two or three year deal, and two on a contract of four years or more. Knowing how profitable the league is, why does it not guarantee the entirety of its players’ contracts? With the new NBA TV deal and ballooning salary cap resulting in astronomical guaranteed deals for marginal players, it’s easy to see why the NFL players, who risk being cut every season, are up in arms. Although it may seem unfair, there are many reasons the NFL should never guarantee contracts, and Brock Osweiler and Tony Romo are perfect examples.


Brock Osweiler, who started a grand total of seven games in his career, signed a four year, 72 million-dollar contract with the Houston Texans last offseason. If that sounds crazy, it’s because it is. The caveat is that Osweiler is only guaranteed the first two seasons for 36 million and could be cut with minimal repercussions after that. It turns out Osweiler was fools gold and proceeded to infuriate Texans fans for 14 weeks before finally being benched on Sunday. At this point it appears the Texans are essentially done with Osweiler as the man holding the keys to their franchise. It is realistic to say that if the contract were guaranteed, it would hamper the Texans to the point of not contending the next few years. With the way NFL contracts work, they still have to pay him one more year, but knowing he’s off the books after that, they can bring in another quarterback through draft, trade or free agency to compete with Osweiler next year. Tony Romo, please come to the stage.


In March of 2013, The Dallas Cowboys signed Tony Romo to a 6 year, 108 million dollar contract with 40 million guaranteed. Romo was considered one of the best quarterbacks in the league, making the deal much less of a gamble than that of Brock Osweiler. The risk with Romo however, is not his performance, but his health. Since signing, Romo has broken his collarbone twice and had two back surgeries, playing just four games the past two seasons. There is no doubting his talent, but at a $24 million dollar cap hit the risk of injury is probably too great to keep him. To add to it, the Cowboys struck gold in the 4th round of last years draft, acquiring quarterback Dak Prescott, who, in the absence of Romo, has led Dallas to a 12-2 record and secured his role as the Cowboys starting quarterback for years to come. If there were guaranteed contracts in the NFL, the Cowboys would have been forced to keep one of the most expensive quarterbacks in the league as their backup for the next three years. But because of how the NFL works, the cowboys can cut him or, more likely, trade him to a team that needs a quarterback, where he would renegotiate a more reasonable deal.


The Texans are a perfect fit. The Cowboys could trade Romo to them, where he would renegotiate his contract to something more feasible. The Cowboys would get rid of his contract and receive compensation, the Texans would have a reasonably priced, high quality quarterback to start as Osweiler backs up in the likely case of injury, and Tony Romo would have a chance to win a Super Bowl in the waning years of his career. A win-win-win scenario that could never happen with guaranteed contracts in the NFL.