All the buzz around the NFL draft these days has centered around Alabama quarterback Mac Jones and his ascent up the draft board.
Every mock draft has the Florida native headed to San Francisco after being selected by the 49ers with the No. 3 pick. Previously, he had been slotted to a variety of teams, including the New Orleans Saints with the No. 28 pick and the New England Patriots with the 15th pick.
It’s fun to speculate about how Jones would fare with Sean Payton or Bill Belichick or Kyle Shanahan.
But nobody ever talks about the real-life change athletes experience as they transition into being professionals.
For Jones, it’s not just a matter of joining one of the 32 NFL teams. It also means moving to one of those cities. For a guy who grew up in Florida, played collegiately in Tuscaloosa and trained for the NFL draft in Mobile, that’s quite a transition.
Can you imagine waking up on the morning of the draft with the realization by day’s end you would be moving to San Francisco or Boston or New Orleans or some other NFL locale?
There aren’t many other professions where that unusual possibility exists. Medical students experience something similar on Match Day when they find out where they will do their residencies.
Military men and women very often sign up without knowing where they will be headed to boot camp or where they will be stationed after they’ve completed their training. These heroes may be in the most precarious position since they could literally be sent anywhere in the world with a varying degree of danger associated with the destination.
For most of us, the thought of accepting a job and then being told where we have to move to do that job is a foreign and unsettling proposition. Would you have accepted your current position before knowing what city or even what part of the country your office would be located in?
I can already hear the reply. “If they paid me $10 million a year I would.” It’s a good point.
But they aren’t going to pay Jones that amount. If all goes according to plan, the 49ers will pay him much more than that.
There’s very little need for negotiation when it comes to NFL rookie contracts. Salaries are slotted depending on each position in the draft. For instance, the No. 1 pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars will make roughly $34.7 million, which includes a $22.6 million signing bonus. That means even if projected the No. 1 pick, Trevor Lawrence, never plays a down, he will immediately have $22.6 million in the bank.
If Jones is selected by the 49ers with the No. 3 pick, he will pocket a signing bonus of $20.8 million and an overall contract of $32.2 million.
Every player selected in the first round will become an instant millionaire. But it’s significant to note how abruptly the salaries and signing bonuses drop even within the first round.
The No. 15 pick of the Patriots will receive a signing bonus of $8.1 million and an overall contract of $14.8 million.
The No. 28 pick of the Saints will receive a signing bonus of $6.1 million and an overall contract of $12 million.
The last pick of the first round will receive a signing bonus of $5.1 million and a $10.7 million overall contract.
Those numbers illustrate just how much money Jones has made for himself since he last played an actual football game. When Jones walked off the field for the last time after beating Ohio State for an undefeated season and national championship, he was projected to be taken somewhere in the second half of the first round. So, a signing bonus of $6 million and an overall contract of $12 million is what he could have reasonably expected.
The difference between that money and what he could receive as the No. 3 pick is $14 million immediately on Signing Day and $20 million over the life of his initial contract.
Not all the credit for that rise goes to David Morris and QB Country, but there’s no denying at least some of the credit has to. Morris has helped transform the image of Jones from that of a successful game manager to that of a quarterback who has the physical and mental makeup to not only be a star player but a face of a professional franchise.
Jones will be well compensated wherever he winds up. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some anxious moments when a new employer will instruct him to pack his bags for his new hometown on one coast or another.
Randy Kennedy, who has been a leading voice on the Gulf Coast sports scene for 18 years, writes a weekly column for Lagniappe. His sports talk show airs weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on Sports Talk 99.5 and the free iHeart app.
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