If you pay attention to Celebrity Net Worth, or Twitter, or Facebook, or the news, or everyone on ESPN, you probably heard that today is very special day. July 1st is international Bobby Bonilla Day. On this day, 52 year old former MLB slugger Bobby Bonilla gets his annual $1.2 million direct deposit from the Mets. I'm not gonna recap Bobby's deal in this article. If you really have no idea what I'm talking about, you can read this version we posted yesterday and this version we posted years ago that originally gave Bobby's brilliant contract mass attention. The long and short of it is that in 2000 Bobby asked the Mets to defer a $5.9 million payment that was owed to him in exchange for receiving $1.2 million per year for 25 years starting in 2011. The deal essentially gives Bobby a big league contract every year until he is 72, in the year 2035.
But even though he might get all the headlines, Bobby certainly was not the first professional athlete to defer a contract. In fact, 15 years before Bobby struck his deal, an NFL player named Bill Fralic negotiated an equally interesting and unique deal when he signed with the Atlanta Falcons. Fralic's deal might not pay as much as Bobby's, but it does have one very nice little advantage: It lasts FOREVER. And by "forever", we mean until Bill dies.
Bill Fralic was born on October 31, 1962 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He played high school football at Penn Hills High and was named to the "All Century Team" by Pennsylvania Football News. As a senior, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette named him high school athlete of the year.
He didn't travel far for college, having won a football scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. He played offensive tackle at Pitt and landed on the All-American squad in his junior and senior years.
Bill entered the 1985 NFL draft and was selected with the second overall pick by the Atlanta Falcons. At the time, Warren Moon was the highest paid person in the NFL, earning $1.1 million per year. The highest paid Offensive Lineman back then was Dean Steinkuhler who made $650k per year. Bill's rookie deal paid $600k right out of the gate. When you include his signing bonus, Fralic would go on to earn $7 million in his first four years in the NFL. All in, he actually earned more during those first years than the #1 pick of the 1985 draft, Bruce Smith.
So what does this have to do with Bobby Bonilla? Well, just like Bobby, Bill was concerned about his life after sports. So when it came time to negotiate his very first deal with the Falcons, he hired an expert tax lawyer. This lawyer asked the Falcons for a highly unusual provision. In addition to paying a signing bonus and offering a big contract, Bill's lawyer demanded that the Falcons pay the him $150,000. Not a one time fee of $150,000. Not $150k for the length of the contract. Not even $150k for 25 years, like Bonilla got with the Mets.
Bill Fralic requested that the Falcons five him $150,000 per year, every year for the rest of his life!
Bill went on to play nine season in the NFL from 1985 – 1993 during which time he went to the Pro Bowl four times. In 1992 he was one of the first NFL players to take advantage of the newly-created free agency system and by doing so he doubled his salary to from $800k to $1.6 million when he jumped from the Falcons to the Detroit Lions.
After football he wrestled in the WWF and was famously part of the 20-man battle royal at WrestleMania 2. He was a Falcons TV commentator from 1995 – 1997 then a Pittsburgh Panthers broadcaster from 2004-2010. He was also an early vocal opponent of steroid use in the NFL. In 1989 he even testified before Joe Biden (a Senator at the time) at a US Senate sub-committee meeting on steroid use in professional sports.
Today he spends most of his time running an insurance company called Bill Fralic Insurance Services, a business he actually launched while he was still a player in the 80s.
But if Bill ever gets tired of the insurance business, he always has a backup plan! Every January the Falcons direct deposit $150,000 into his bank. This will happen annually for as long as Bill lives. Not a bad little backup plan!