Valentine Holmes’ impending move to the NFL could potentially make him one of the most recognisable athletes on the planet.
If he somehow manages to become a star in America, the 23-year-old will open the door to multi-million dollar endorsement deals and salaries in the vicinity of US$10 million (AU$13.7) per year.
Far more likely however is a few years stuck on an NFL practice squad, and then maybe a couple more on a minimum salary as his body and brain adjust to the unique rigours of the game.
In what is the best-case scenario for Holmes in the 2019 season, he could earn a US$495,000 (AU$678,000) salary – the minimum salary for a first-year player on a 53-man NFL roster in 2019.
NOT IMPRESSED: Why Holmes failed in first attempt at cracking the NFL
To get there, Holmes has to make an immediate impression and show scouts and coaches he can perform in the NFL from day one, better than elite athletes who’ve been plying their trade in the sport since childhood.
It seems impossible, but former Souths junior Jordan Mailata did do it just last season, although one look at his 203cm, 157kg makes you think the big man was born to play NFL.
Whichever way you look at it for Holmes, this result seems to be incredibly unlikely, given he will need to add around 10kg of functional muscle to his 90kg frame before he’s even able to handle the hits – no matter which position he ends up playing.
That leaves the possibility of a practice squad spot for the former Sharks superstar, a far more realistic option – but also far less financial attractive.
— Valentine Holmes (@val_holmes1) November 2, 2018
For the upcoming 2019 season, practice squad players will earn a minimum wage of $US136,000 (AU$186,000) if they remain on the squad for the full 17 rounds of the season.
Holmes could earn a further US$1,150 (AU$1,577) per week of the pre-season, possibly bolstering his yearly earnings to around US$147,000 ($AU201,000).
If the conventional route to an NFL practice squad doesn’t work out for Holmes, an even less lucrative option remains.
The young speedster could be added to a team’s practice squad via the NFL’s International Player Pathway program, which allows eight teams to carry an extra overseas player in their reserve squad.
The option seems tailor-made for Holmes, but would only earn him $US129,200 ($AU177,100) a season, a far cry from what the representative fullback and winger could earn in the comfortable surrounds of the NRL.
In their bitter statement announcing Holmes’ exit from the club, the Sharks claimed their offer to him from 2020 onwards “would have made him the highest-paid player in the club’s history.”
Reports suggest that number was around $800,000 per season for the off-contract star, about the same amount the North Queensland Cowboys offered him for a five-year move to the tropical north.
With $40,000 match payments for Origin, and a $20,000 financial boost per Test match, Holmes could have easily been earning $1m per season from 2020 onwards – eclipsing his likely NFL earnings, even with the favourable exchange rate.
If Holmes was to nail down a 53-man roster spot for the 2019 NFL season, he’d be slated to earn a tidy US$585,000 (AU$800,000) minimum salary in 2020, not bad, but still only 80 per cent of his Aussie earnings.
Where it could start to become a profitable move for Holmes is in the endorsement department.
There is no more lucrative market for endorsement deals than America, with superstars like LeBron James bolstering their salaries by as much as US$40m per year through such deals.
NFL stars aren’t earning quite the same, with Green Bay superstar Aaron Rodgers leading the pack, cashing in to the tune of US$9 million through endorsements in 2018.
While Holmes will never be in that stratosphere, he could definitely pad out a modest minimum NFL wage with an endorsement deal of around US$200,000 per season, given a booming profile in Australia and New Zealand.
Even then, the NRL’s second-leading try scorer in 2018 will only just be managing to match his potential earnings in Australia in the near term.
Thankfully, what the 23-year-old has on his side is time, three more years of it than a 26-year-old Jarryd Hayne had at the start of his NFL journey.
In a best-case scenario, Holmes could spend eight years in the NFL and with each successive year he’ll not only be getting bigger and better, but also earning far more lucrative salaries.
No doubt Holmes will be looking to play the long game, we can’t wait to see how he goes.
Greenberg’s warning to departing Holmes
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg has warned Valentine Holmes he is taking a “big risk” pursuing his NFL dream and dismissed concerns about the Cronulla star sparking a player drain.
Holmes is free to pursue his NFL dream after being granted an immediate release from his NRL contract with Cronulla.
He follows in the footsteps of the likes of Jarryd Hayne, who earned a contract with the San Francisco 49ers in 2015.
Greenberg was unfazed by Holmes’ move and didn’t waste time spelling out just how tough it will be for the Queensland State of Origin star to make the NFL cut.
“Over the years we have seen the occasional player try his hand at a different sport whether it has been the NFL or others and what we have seen in that history is players come back pretty quickly,” he said in Brisbane.
“Occasionally this will happen when a player like Valentine chases his dreams.
“I wouldn’t begrudge him trying to get on the stage of the NFL but in saying that it is a significant risk, it is a big risk.
“It’s a big challenge for him. I hope he does well. But history tells me that players who try their hand quite often come back.”
Under the terms of the release, Holmes will not be permitted to play for any other NRL club in 2019 should his American plans not work out.
The superstar fullback has just returned from a holiday in the US where he is said to have viewed an NFL franchise.
Asked if he thought Holmes would return to the NRL, Greenberg said: “We don’t want to be making it easy for players to leave the code, but in saying that if he wants to come back there’s a conversation to be had.”
Holmes initially showed interest in a US switch after he and fellow NRL star Jason Taumalolo of the North Queensland Cowboys completed NFL workouts in 2016.
The Sharks fullback reportedly got a taste for it again when on a recent holiday in the US.
Holmes reportedly underwent strength and speed testing at Nike’s global headquarters in Oregon with a view to enter the NFL’s international program system.