When No. 1 overall pick Mark Chapman decided to sign with the Salt Lake Stallions of the Alliance of American Football league many CFL followers were surprised because he was the first national to do so but take a closer look at the factors surrounding the decision and it makes a lot more sense from the player’s perspective.
First, it should be said that if the Hamilton Tiger-Cats – who traded up to select Chapman first overall and gave up Canadian all-star offensive lineman Ryan Bombem to do it – had paid fair market value in May, the potential for him signing would have significantly increased. The Ticats clearly felt that Chapman had limited options and tried to get him for less than what similar picks have recently been paid. That was a miscalculation, both because Chapman was unwilling to take less on general principle and because it turned out that he did have another football opportunity, inking a deal with the Denver Broncos.
Chapman played four pre-season games with the Broncos recording seven receptions for 58 yards. He was among the final training camp cuts in the Mile High City, but the experience and film are now on Chapman’s resume. That helps if a rash of injuries hits the Broncos receiving corps or another NFL franchise comes calling. By putting his name on paper with Salt Lake all the NFL options remain possible: should any NFL club want to bring Chapman in he can go due to the out clause in AAF contracts.
If Chapman elected to play in the CFL at this point, his NFL window would be non-existent for 2018 and been just six weeks in the off-season depending on the length of the deal. Most CFL teams want to lock rookies into three-year pacts, which means Chapman would have foregone any NFL opportunities until after the 2019 season.
The only way an immediate NFL option could have been created for Chapman had he signed a CFL deal would be signing the standard two-year contract – one year plus an option. But in most cases, that pay is at the minimum salary rate. Not to mention the fact that Chapman would have been forced to learn the Ticats run and shoot offence and develop a rapport with Jeremiah Masoli on the fly, less than ideal when trying to put impressive film together in hopes of earning another NFL look.
Football is a business and monetary considerations play major roles in determining the best course for players. The AAF offers players $250,000 of hard money over three years, broken down to $70,000, $80,000 and $100,000 for years one, two and three respectively. The 2017 No. 1 overall CFL selection, defensive lineman Faith Ekakitie, signed a three-year deal for $290,000 in hard money which amounts to $223,000 and change in U.S. dollars. Even if the AAF survives just a year – and the United Football League played four seasons and had far less backing in terms of name recognition and other important aspects – Chapman will make $70,000 USD versus a pro-rated $88,000 CDN. That’s just over 24,000 plus playoff money if he played the rest of the season, assuming the Ticats were finally willing to match the Ekakitie deal.
The schedule is another factor: the AAF is set to play a ten-game slate while the CFL season is 18 games. So not only will Chapman make more money in the AAF, he’ll play less games to earn it – an important factor at a time when player health and safety is paramount.
Should the AAF turn into a viable league Chapman could play out the entire contract and he’ll make more money than over the length of the same timeframe in the CFL with less wear and tear on the body – 30 games compared to 54. Chapman lives in the United States so the money made in the AAF will go further and he won’t be taxed as heavily meaning more in his pocket. Even if the AAF lasts only one year, Chapman could double dip by collecting the AAF salary and be ready for CFL training camp.
Playing four-down football with American rules gives Chapman apples to apples game film for NFL evaluators to assess and the AAF is littered with former NFL coaches, general managers and scouts that remain connected in the NFL providing meaningful, trustworthy references.
Let’s compare Chapman to regular jobs in the working world. You’re being offered the same position from two competing companies. One wants to pay you more money to work 45 per cent less and the other is offering a smaller amount of money while putting in nearly twice as much time. What would you choose?
From opportunity, monetary and career longevity standpoints, Chapman’s decision to play in the AAF makes complete sense.