KYDC ’92: Michael Irvin Wanted to be the Highest-Paid Cowboy

This post is part of the 1992 Season in Review series, marking the 25th anniversary of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl championship season.

Michael Irvin was still holding out for a new contract as the Cowboys began training camp in 1992.

After he was drafted by the Cowboys in 1988, Michael Irvin signed a four-year contract worth a total of $1.875 million. During the summer of 1992, he was holding out for a new contract, and he wanted to be the highest-paid Cowboy.

Below is part of the story about Irvin’s demands:

Michael Irvin wants just two things: to play football for the Dallas Cowboys and to be paid more money than anybody else to do it.

“I hear people say that asking for a certain amount of salary will upset the pay scale around here,” said Irvin, the unsigned receiver whose recent contract proposal to the Cowboys would make him the club’s highest-salaried player. “But somebody, at some point, is going to have to make more than (quarterback Troy Aikman). And then in the future, Troy will get a new deal that moves him back up to the top, where he belongs. That’s the way it should work.”

Aikman is the only Cowboy who averages a million a year. Irvin, who yesterday received team management’s first counterproposal, is one of at least three Dallas players who aspire to change that. Pro Bowl tight end Jay Novacek, who joins Irvin as one of eight veteran Cowboys without contracts, may request a three-year deal that averages $1 million annually. National Football League rushing champ Emmitt Smith, who is hopeful of renegotiation before he enters his ’93 option year, could also make acase for being worthy of reaching the $1 million level.

To earn more than Aikman, Irvin would have to make a leap more challenging than any he made in his spectacular All-Pro season of 1991. Aikman is presently Dallas’ top-paid player, with salaries of $1.064 million this year, $1.17 million in ’93 and $1.284 million in ’94, the final year of his contract.

The 1991 deal given defensive tackle Russell Maryland averages $1.575 million a year through the ’95 season. But all but $1 million of the $3.6 million signing bonus Maryland received is deferred until after the 1996 season, skewing the annual average. Maryland, like Aikman, was the No. 1 overall selection in his draft.

Irvin, who last year made $300,000 in base salary with a $50,000 roster bonus, said his proposal is not motivated by a desire to be the top-paid Cowboy.

“The money I’m looking for is all relative to the money made by other receivers, not the money made by the other guys (Cowboys players),” Irvin said.

Both the Cowboys and Irvin, who is represented by agent Steve Endicott, are being cautious in negotiations in hopes of preventing animosity. So neither side will divulge specifics of the proposals that have been exchanged. “We’re all working diligently to get Michael signed,” Endicott said.

So what happened…?

Irvin reached an agreement with the Cowboys on August 7, signing a three-year, $3.75 million contract. In 2017 dollars, Irvin’s 1992 deal would be worth a total of $6.5 million, or $2.17 million per year.

By comparison, Dez Bryant is playing under a five-year, $70 million contract that included a $20 million signing bonus.