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Rookie players hit jackpot

Although it doesn’t officially start until Saturday, the 2008 NFL draft kicked off Tuesday, with the Miami Dolphins agreeing to sign tackle Jake Long -?a former standout at the University of Michigan -?to a five-year, $57.75 million contract.

That’s a lot of money – and a lot of pressure -?to be thrown at a kid expected to save a franchise.

When players come out of college and go into the NFL, they are expected to dominate the league the same way they dominated lesser opponents in college. Paying that much money to an unproven player is ridiculous -?especially when the contracts are dissected.

Football is supposed to be a game, but players are forced to play as if their lives are on the line – and, in a way, they are.

Rookie contracts typically have a base amount of $285,000 per season. The majority of players earn their money through performance-based incentives.

Mike Jenkins – former USF cornerback – is likely to be the first Bull drafted in the first round of the NFL draft. According to projections on, and, the only question for Jenkins is how high he will be taken.

Jenkins has been projected to go as high as No. 7 to the New England Patriots and as low as No. 20 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“I would love to stay (in Tampa),” Jenkins said at USF’s March 7 Pro Day. “I could give back to the community. I love it here and I would be very comfortable here.”

According to, Adrian Peterson – who was drafted No. 7 overall by the Minnesota Vikings – earned $4.54 million dollars in base salary and incentives. Aaron Ross was drafted No. 20 by the New York Giants and earned $1.98 million.

Playing in a city he loves could cost Jenkins nearly $2.5 million, and that’s a big pay cut.

Getting drafted by New England, however, would put an entirely new level of stress onto the rookie.

Players face this every season, and each year the pressure grows.

The millions of dollars that will be paid to NFL rookies are based on nothing but a scout’s decision of their potential. For a closer look, check out USF’s other former cornerback – Trae Williams.

Williams had 16 interceptions in his USF career, despite lacking a couple of inches in height. Unlike Jenkins, Williams is not projected to go in the first round. According to (an offshoot of the popular recruiting Web site, he is the 22nd-best cornerback in the draft. Last season, C.J. Wilson was the 19th cornerback selected and made $288,960 in his first season.

Is Mike Jenkins really that much better than his former teammate?

No. Because Jenkins is a couple of inches taller and .2 second faster, however, Williams will have to earn his money through incentives. These incentives can make younger players take more risks and look selfish.

They have to. A player holds out for guaranteed money – such as the $30 million guarenteed that will be paid to Long – because of all of the feats he must accomplish to make the rest of the money on his contract.

By nature, football is a physically demanding sport, and a player’s career can end in just one play.

People may wonder why players in the NFL are portrayed as greedy and selfish. With so much money on the line, it’s the difference between being a superstar or the next “first-round bust.”