Sammy Watkins has a point – NFL players can make a case for being 'underpaid' - The Buffalo News
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Sammy Watkins has a point – NFL players can make a case for being 'underpaid'

In between golf holes on vacation last week, I looked at my phone long enough to see Sammy Watkins had seemingly stepped in it again on social media.

Reacting to the wave of big-money contracts signed by NBA players in free agency, the Buffalo Bills' wide receiver tweeted the following:

Reaction was about like what you'd expect. One response asked Watkins if he wanted a GoFundMe page set up for him. Another accused him of being "blinded by his own greed and self importance. He can only think about more, more, more, more." Another said, "Paid more? How about you play more?"

Watkins is no stranger to social media blunders. Back in 2015, he lashed out against critics on a since-deleted Instagram post, calling them "losers" and telling them to "continue working y'all little jobs for the rest of y'all lives."

Watkins' most recent tweet doesn't rise to the level of insulting fans -- for which he later apologized -- but it clearly didn't sit well with some, which is understandable. As a first-round draft pick, Watkins signed a four-year contract worth nearly $20 million, all of which was guaranteed. He shouldn't be having a hard time making ends meet.

There is also his injury history, which several of his Twitter followers were sure to point out. Watkins played just eight games last season because of a foot injury. He has just one 1,000-yard season since being taken fourth overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, and since that time ranks 28th in the league in receiving yardage -- not nearly what was expected when the team traded two first-round draft picks to acquire him.

My initial thought before teeing off was that Watkins probably shouldn't have gone to Twitter to share his thoughts. After digesting some of the numbers, however, he's got a point. I mean, the New Orleans Pelicans gave someone named Jrue Holiday $126 million over five years!

Keep in mind, that's fully guaranteed. Holiday will collect every penny of that deal.

Players in the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball all have fully guaranteed contracts. That's not the case in the NFL. Outside of rookie deals, which are generally lower -- especially for those drafted outside the top half of the first round -- only a portion of NFL contracts are guaranteed.

The current biggest deal in the NFL belongs to Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who signed a five-year, $125 million contract this offseason that included $70 million in guarantees. That's $1 million less than Tim Hardaway Jr. will make from the New York Knicks over four years. The biggest portion of guaranteed money in the NFL is Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who got $87 million in guarantees when he signed his contract extension last year. Luck's six-year contract was the biggest in NFL history when it was signed, with a total possible value of $140 million.

Luck is a three-time Pro Bowler at the most important position in sports. That he'll make about as much as Holiday does seem bizarre on the surface.

So what has to change? When the NFL's current collective bargaining agreement between teams and players expires in four years, the players have to be willing to fight for a better deal that gives them a bigger cut of revenue. That means possibly going on strike, and missing game checks. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, who has a background as a lawyer,  laid out in greater detail what players will need to do.

Of course, that's still down the road a bit. In the short term, if Watkins wants to land a rich second contract, he'll need to do what so many of his Twitter followers suggested: Stay healthy in 2017 and produce on the field. He might not get Jrue Holiday money, but he won't go hungry, either, if he does just that.

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