After three NFL seasons of kicking off from the 35-yard line, what has been the impact on touchbacks, returns, field position, scoring and injuries? Also, is this rule responsible for a record number of big comebacks?
19 May 2009
by J.I. Halsell
As we all know, Sheldon Brown of the Philadelphia Eagles is currently disgruntled with his contract and has openly voiced his opinion in this regard. The Eagles have a long history of giving extensions to young players who may only be two to three years into their rookie contracts. In the middle of his third season, for instance, Brown accepted and signed a contract for nine years, $7.5 millon guaranteed, and an average of $2.82 million per year. At the time of the signing, Brown was 25 years old; therefore, he agreed to be contractually bound to the Eagles until age 34. Now at age 30, Brown plays in the defensive backfield with a fellow corner in Asante Samuel, who inked a free agent contract for six years, $23.6 million guaranteed. It averages $9.5 million per year, and binds Samuel to the Eagles until he's 33.
|Eagles CBs: Samuel vs. Brown|
|Accrued Seasons when Contract Signed||5||1/2/1900|
|Type of Contract||Unrestricted Free Agent||Extension|
|Term||6 years||9 years|
|Age when Signed||27||25|
|Age when Contract Expires||33||34|
|Average Per Year||$9,523,333||$2,820,556|
Had Sheldon Brown decided to pass on Philly's offer of an extension in 2004, he would have become an Unrestricted Free Agent after the 2005 season (unless Philly chose to Franchise him at $5.89 million guaranteed for one year). In the offseason leading up to the 2006 season, free agent corners Brian Williams and Will Allen inked UFA contracts respectively with Jacksonville and Miami. Williams' UFA contract with Jacksonville was for six years, $10 million guaranteed, and $5.33 million per year; while Allen's UFA contract with Miami was for four years, $4.5 million guaranteed, and $3.25 million per year. So when you look at Brown compared to the corners who he would have hit the market with, he not only is under contract until a later stage of his career, but on a per-year basis he's making less in total contract value and less in the all-important guaranteed money. Simply put, in retrospect, it would have probably been in the best interest of Brown to be patient for another season and a half and then contemplate either an extension with the Eagles at that point or explore the free agency market, as one would think he would have gotten a better deal than the one he's currently saddled with.
|Comparable 2006 UFA CBs|
|Accrued Seasons when Contract Signed||4||5||2|
|Type of Contract||Unrestricted Free Agent||Unrestricted Free Agent||Extension|
|Term||6 years||4 years||9 years|
|Age when Signed||26||27||25|
|Age when Contract Expires||32||31||34|
|Guarantee Per Year||$1,666,666||$1,125,000||$833,333|
|Contract Average Per Year||$5,333,333||$3,250,000||$2,820,556|
The thing about locking yourself into a deal for so long is that, while you're "stuck" at $2.82 million per year in the case of Brown versus the corner market, the market for corners, and all positions for that matter, continues to escalate. The increase in the corner market is illustrated in the increase of the Franchise tender from $5.89 million in 2006 to $9.96 million in 2009; that's a 69 percent increase in three seasons.
From the player's perspective, there are not too many pros to signing an extension with the length of Sheldon Brown's. Surely receiving $7.5 million in guaranteed money is hard to pass up, when that's more than the total value of your rookie contract; so you're presented with the opportunity to receive an amount of money that is truly tantalizing. However, when put into perspective, is this $7.5 million today worth the under-compensation over the course of the contract in the long run? Definitely not, but it illustrates how a club can use the emphasis of guaranteed money on the part of players and agents against them. The biggest issue with Brown's contract is the duration of the deal. The fact that he sacrificed his ability to hit the market until age 34 is an egregious mistake on the part of Brown and his agent.
The Eagles signed Shawn Andrews and Mike Patterson to similar early extensions:
|Some of the Eagles' Current Early Extensions|
|Accrued Seasons when Contract Signed||2||2||2|
|Type of Contract||Extension||Extension||Extension|
|Term||11 years||9 years||10 years|
|Age when Signed||23||25||23|
|Age when Contract Expires||34||34||33|
|Average Per Year||$3,125,023||$2,820,556||$3,845,500|
From the club's perspective, the pro to these types of extensions is obvious, in that you're getting players who you anticipate to be a significant part of your team at a compensation rate below market. So as the cap increases and as the players' respective position markets increase, you've locked in your labor at below-market compensation, thereby allowing you freedom in your cap management to pursue the Asante Samuelses of the world in free agency. Conversely, the con to doing these deals is that you run the risk of giving a player a significant amount of guaranteed money after they've only shown their ability for two years. The player could in the long run end up not living up to your expectations.
An even bigger concern is that you eventually end up with players like Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown, who eventually realize that they're being paid below market and become disgruntled as a result. So if players were simply assets without emotions, then this early extension concept would be perfect; however, since we're talking about athletes who are sensitive about their income status, this concept leads to acrimony in the locker room which doesn't exactly lend itself to the perceived harmonious team concept of winning teams.
To their credit, Philly is doing something right. They have been a consistent winner for the past decade (albeit without a Super Bowl ring). Having a legitimate franchise quarterback in Donavon McNabb helps (he may not be Peyton Manning, but he's no Bobby Hoying). After all, if you look around the league, those teams with solid and consistent quarterback play are the teams that succeed.
The quarterback in Philly, by the way, also signed an early extension in his career and has since played under a contract that has paid him $5.75 million per year; while quarterbacks like Marc Bulger, Matt Schaub, and David Garrard make in excess of $8 million per year, not to mention Matt Stafford's $12 million per year. So to his credit, McNabb has done a good job of biting his tongue for the most part and being a good company guy.
Other players who have signed early extensions across the league include Rashean Mathis, Devin Hester, Anquan Boldin, Osi Umenyiora, and Kevin Williams:
|Other NFL Early Extensions|
|Accrued Seasons when Contract Signed||2||2||2||3||3|
|Term||7 years||6 years||6 years||8 years||9 years|
|Age when Signed||24||25||24||24||26|
|Age when Contract Expires||31||31||30||32||35|
|Average Per Year||$3,762,857||$3,838,671||$3,916,667||$4,230,000||$4,957,333|
This concept of early extensions isn't unique to the Eagles; they have simply employed it more frequently than other teams. In Arizona, Anquan Boldin's grief is as a result of an early extension that now underpays him; it doesn't help that every time he lines up, he sees on the other side of him a wide receiver in Larry Fitzgerald who's making $10 million per year, while he's making $3.92 million per year and other top tier receivers are making $9 million per year. Kevin Williams in Minnesota may be a happy camper today, but when Albert Haynesworth is getting $41 million guaranteed and $14.29 million per year, he could easily have an Anquan Boldin type attitude in a few seasons.
The moral of the story is that no one put a gun to the heads of these players who have signed these early extensions; therefore, if you and your agent allow yourselves to be "bamboozled" by the early extension offering of a club (particularly one that defers your free agency until age 34), then you have no one to blame but yourself and you should honor your contract. Instead of signing a nine-year contract, go the route of Bart Scott, who played out his rookie contract, then signed a three-year extension that guaranteed him $6.5 million, but more importantly positioned him, due to the fact that it was only three years in duration, to receive another big payday this year at age 29 that pays him a guarantee of $13.5 million.
Switching subjects, I will be conducting a Salary Cap 101 Webinar on Saturday, May 30th, 2009, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. For more information and to register, visit www.SalaryCap101.com.
100 comments, Last at 23 Jun 2009, 12:01am by Pat (filler)