By Michael Colangelo
If you’re an NBA fan then the past week has been crazy. It was topped off by Kawhi Leonard ditching Toronto for Los Angeles. Except he didn’t sign with the marquee team in L.A., he went to the Clippers. He also reportedly convinced Paul George to demand a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder. George still had two years on his deal. The NFL has newsworthy free agency, but it’s nothing like the NFL and there are a few reasons why:
Let’s get this one out of the way because it’s the most obvious difference between the NFL and the NBA. This year top-25 players like Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Jimmy Butler were all free agents. If players like Leonard and Durant were in the NFL, they’d be tagged and not even have the option to move to another team. You simply don’t see the best players in the NFL leave their team because front offices always have the tag as a method of control.
Back in the day, NBA owners were tired of being burned by long contracts so David Stern came up with a great idea: max length contracts — four years for players joining a team and five years for players staying on their current team — and a form of salary control based time-served in the NBA. Essentially max players could only get a certain percentage of the NBA salary cap. That had two effects. The first was that players were constantly on short term deals so they became free agents more often. Without a franchise tag, players could pick and choose where they wanted to play. Superstars like LeBron James, Durant, or Leonard are actually underpaid when it comes to their performance because of the restriction on how much they can even sign...