The NBA vs. NFL debate regarding free agency and player compensation won't die down any time soon. At the heart of the issue are really two separate and distinct questions: Which free agency model is better for fans and will NFL players ever have the same power, or even close to it, that their NBA counterparts possess?
We'll start with the differences in free agency for both leagues, which really revolves around superstars and their availability or lack thereof.
Star players in the NBA typically wait until their contract expires, so that they can choose which team they want to go to. Most recently, Gordon Heyward choose the Boston Celtics over the Utah Jazz and Miami Heat.
Just as exciting, however, is the knowledge that players will opt out of their contracts once they have the opportunity. That's why the NBA has big, exciting trades involving top-20 players in the league like Chris Paul and Paul George.
The NFL has neither of those things. It's extremely rare for a top 50 player in the NFL to switch teams. In fact, one glance at the NFL Network's top 60 players on this year's "Top 100" countdown shows that only five of those players had ever played for more than one team.
The reasons are simple enough: the higher level of injury risk in the NFL and the franchise tag.
Unlike their NBA brethren, NFL players are typically not willing to take on the risk that would be associated with fighting through multiple years of franchise tags to hit the open market. It just doesn't happen, although there's a chance Kirk Cousins might -- key word being "might" -- get there next March, if the Redskins don't get a deal done with their quarterback by the franchise deadline on Monday or choose to tag him a third-time next offseason.
As such, from an excitement level, NBA free agency blows NFL free agency out of the water. Superstar players, bigger trades, etc. all serve to generate a buzz that the NFL can't come close to matching.
But which one is better for the fans?
If you root for one of the teams stockpiling assets in the "arms race" that Houston Rockets GM Darryl Morey talked about, you are in luck. But what if you are a fan of the Jazz or the Indiana Pacers or one of the teams that can't keep their stars and, as such, have very little hope for the foreseeable future?
Imagine a world where Aaron Rodgers is set to hit the free agent market and can go to any NFL team he wants for whatever reasons he chooses. That would be unbelievably exciting for lots of fan bases and the NFL in general, but what about for Packers fans after he leaves for a team like the Houston Texans, who have a better defense and play in a state with no income tax? Then what?
The good news, or bad news depending on your perspective, is that it is unlikely to happen for a bunch of different reasons. Even Cousins, who might be the rare quarterback hitting the open market, would reportedly have taken a deal for a little less than $20 million a year if the Redskins had offered it a year ago.
"One of the biggest differences between the two sports is that the player leadership in the NBA is more powerful than that of the NFL," former Packers Exec Andrew Brandt told me recently.
"Chris Paul is the president of the NBA Players Association. LeBron James is vice president. I think that matters when they are at the bargaining table. Guys like that have a certain gravitas."
The only players that are close to NBA superstar level in the NFL are the quarterbacks. That means for the NFL players to have the power of those in the NBA, more quarterbacks must be active in the CBA negotiations with the NFL and more of them must be willing to play the "long game" when it comes to free agency, waitting through multiple franchise tags before hitting the market.
The odds of elite quarterbacks like Rodgers or Russell Wilson getting involved in the NFL Players Association are much higher than them getting to the open market. The looming threats of catastrophic injury and the franchise tag make it a gamble that almost all of them are unwilling to take and, given the money they are being offered, it's hard to blame them.
Think about Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who recently signed a long-term deal that makes him the highest paid player in NFL history. He was scheduled to make a little less than $1 million this year before the contract. If he played that out, then he would have likely been franchise-tagged the next two years at an amount less than the $25 million per year in new money the Raiders gave him.
So, his options were to take his chances going year to year for the next three years or sign a paper that guarantees him $40 million immediately and over $70 million in the event of a career-ending injury.
For a guy coming off a broken leg which ended his season the year before, the decision was easy.
That's why NFL players will never be in the same position as the players in the NBA.
Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is ultimately all a matter of your personal perspective … and likely the team you follow.