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Long Before Bobby Bonilla’s 25 Year Gravy Train, This Random NFL Player Negotiated An Equally Creative And Lucrative Deal…

There was a random NFL player who won an equally intriguing sports contract that can only expire upon his death before there was a “Bobby Bonilla Day.”

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You may have heard that today is a very special day if you follow Celebrity Net Worth, Twitter, Facebook, the news, or everyone on ESPN. International Bobby Bonilla Day is observed on July 1. Bobby Bonilla, a 58-year-old retired MLB slugger, receives his yearly $1.2 million cheque from the Mets on this day. Technically, the amount is $1.4 million because Bobby received a separate $250k annual deferment a few years previously.

I won’t rehash Bobby’s arrangement in this piece. If you truly don’t understand what I’m getting at, you can read this version or this version from when we first made Bobby’s great contract widely known. 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. In essence, Bobby will receive a big league contract every year through the year 2035, when he turns 72.

Bobby was hardly the first professional athlete to choose to forgo a contract, despite the fact that he might garner all the attention. 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 agreement may not have paid as much as Bobby’s, but it had one very nice little perk: It was valid for the rest of Bill’s life. That indicates that Bill received payments every year until his death at the age of 56 in 2018.

George Rose/Getty Images
George Rose/Getty Images

Images by George Rose/Getty

Early Life

On October 31, 1962, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Bill Fralic was born. Penn Hills High School where he played high school football, and Pennsylvania Football News awarded him to the “All Century Team.” He was voted high school athlete of the year by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette when he was a senior.

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He attended the University of Pittsburgh on a football scholarship, so he didn’t have to travel too far for college. He played offensive tackle at Pitt and landed on the All-American squad in his junior and senior years.

NFL

The Atlanta Falcons selected Bill with the second overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft. With an annual salary of $1.1 million at the time, Warren Moon was the NFL player with the highest salary. Dean Steinkuhler, an offensive lineman who earned $650,000 year, was the highest paid at the time. Bill received $600k as part of his rookie contract. Fralic would eventually make $7 million in his first four years in the NFL, including his signing bonus. Overall, he actually made more money in those early years than Bruce Smith, the first overall pick in the 1985 draft.

Perpetual Contract

What does Bobby Bonilla have to do with any of this, then? Bill was worried about his life after sports, just like Bobby. So when it came time to negotiate his very first deal with the Falcons, he hired an expert tax lawyer. This attorney requested an extremely unusual clause from the Falcons. 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 lump sum payment of $150,000. Not for the duration of the deal, $150,000. None of the $150k over 25 years that Bonilla received from the Mets.

Bill Fralic asked the Falcons for a lifetime salary of $150,000 paid to him annually.

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Bill continued to play in the NFL from 1985 through 1993 for nine seasons, participating in 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.

Later Career

He switched to wrestling after playing football and was a legendary participant in the WrestleMania 2 20-man battle royal. From 1995 to 1997, he worked as a TV analyst for the Falcons. From 2004 through 2010, he broadcast for the Pittsburgh Panthers. He was also a strong opponent of the NFL’s usage of steroids from the beginning. 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.

Bill spent his later years managing Bill Fralic Insurance Services, an insurance company he really started back in the 1980s when he was still an active player.

Unfortunately, Bill died on December 13, 2018 at the age of 56 after a battle with cancer. He was just one month away from getting an additional $150,000.

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