On Holding Out, Money and that NFC Title Game Loss
Welcome to Monday Morning QB, Guest Edition! 49ers tight end Vernon Davis takes the reins and dishes on topics including his ongoing contract situation, the biggest problem in NFL locker rooms and losing to the rival Seahawks
Welcome to my version of Monday Morning Quarterback. With Peter King on vacation, I have some thoughts on financial literacy in the NFL, the identity of the best QB not named Colin Kaepernick and the last word on that NFC Championship Game. But first, let’s talk about the elephant in the room…
Why I’m Holding Out
In 2010 I signed a five-year, $37 million contract extension with $23 million guaranteed. It was the biggest contract for a tight end in league history. Four years later, and I’m playing at a higher level than I was then, which brings me to why I’m holding out. It’s all about getting paid what you deserve. It’s not that complicated. I want the 49ers to win the Super Bowl, and I want to be on the field this summer working toward that goal, but I have to worry about my future first. Most of my teammates and many players in the NFL understand that. A few don’t. Behind closed doors, they’ll say they’re all about the team and would run through a brick wall for the organization. But when you look closer, they’re doing things to contradict themselves. I can’t listen to anyone but my family and my advisors, because those are the people who are going to be there when football inevitably dumps me.
The NFL’s Money Problem
The majority of the NFL draft class of 2006 turns 30 this season, if they haven’t already. I left the University of Maryland as a junior after turning 22 that January. It’s been eight years, and already, the guy picked after me at No. 7 (Michael Huff) is out of football, and the first QB taken—Vince Young—is gone too. Yet it still was a great draft, in retrospect. Thirty-seven of us have made Pro Bowls, including 17 first-rounders; more than 200 did not. Where do they all go? Some of them will last a dozen years in the league as journeymen, happy to scrape by. Many only lasted two or three years. Some of them got that first check and bought a car, and then another, and then another. They take expensive offseason vacations to places they never dreamed of going, or they go to the club every weekend, like I did as a rookie, desperate to satisfy the kid in each of us who once fantasized about having money.
I like the rookie wage scale that limited the salaries of all draft picks, which is easy for me to say having not been affected by it. First-rounders deserve a significant chunk of the pie, but not at the expense of veterans. The truth is, for many players, the size of the contract doesn’t matter because they’re going to blow the money anyway. Financial literacy is the biggest problem I see in NFL locker rooms. Too many players spend their money on cars they don’t drive and homes they barely live in. I’ve had veterans on their second contract ask me for money. More often, it’s retired players who need the help, once the checks have stopped coming. It took me fours years to figure it out, to see not only guys crash and burn, but to watch other players with business sense and learn from them.
It should come as no surprise that quarterbacks are the best with their money. They’re the kids whose fathers owned small businesses or had comfortable enough careers to coach them up as kids. We didn’t have that. My parents were unstable or absent for my brothers Vontae and Michael, so we were raised by a grandmother in Washington. Many of the black players I know come from similar backgrounds, from single or no-parent homes. We were trying to figure out how to scrape together $5 while the quarterbacks were learning to manage a $100. Our young athletes need help, and that’s where the NFL and the NFLPA need to come in.
It’s not enough to gather rookies in June and tell them how not to go broke, or to offer an offseason financial seminar at a college. Those are great steps taken by the NFL in recent years with their rookie symposium and the player engagement program. But if they really want to save young players from themselves, they have to make it mandatory. Send a college professor to every NFL team and require all players to attend business seminars during training camp. Maybe guys didn’t pay attention during college, but the lessons take on a new meaning when you’re finally getting paid.
More than 300 of us enter this league every year, and there’s no excuse for any of us to leave it poorer than we started.