Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

15 Aug 2005

MMQB: Grow Up, T.O.

I don't want Extra Points to become All T.O., All The Time, but I think that Peter King is right on the money in this commentary on the Owens situation. I can't say for sure because I don't play for the Eagles, but it seems like this has gone past Owens vs. ownership and become Owens vs. teammates. All summer long I've been telling people that only the Eagles can beat the Eagles this year, and apparently T.O. has decided to take me up on my challenge. It's frustrating because I would rather be talking about the game on the field. I'm not an Eagles fan, but I really hate to see a well-run team with a lot of talented players lose its shot at a Super Bowl title because the team had one gaping hole, and to fill it they put their trust in this jerk. It's also frustrating because his performance in last year's Super Bowl was so admirable. Owens showed so much character in working hard to get back on the field for the biggest game of his life, but he has colossal character deficiencies elsewhere in his personality.

Will Carroll pointed out to me that baseball agent Scott Boras did a chat on BP.com last week where he was asked about the Owens situation. His response made a very important point:

"Terrell Owens argues that the owners have the ability to void his contract at any time. While this seems unjust, this is in the NFL CBA. This is a huge issue that should be raised at the next collective bargaining session, but not in the context of an individual player. Owens knew this provision existed when he signed his contract."

Is it fair that the Eagles can get out of the contract if they feel Owens isn't worth the money, but Owens can't get out of his contract if he feels underpaid? The question is moot. Philadelphia doesn't set the rules for the NFL, the owners and players set them together when they negotiate the CBA. If you don't like it, take a leadership role in the union. The Eagles already tore up T.O.'s contract and gave him more money and a big bonus one year ago.

(There was originally a note here about T.O.'s agent screwing up his chance to become a free agent last year, but apparently that's not the case, so I have deleted it. See comments for details.)

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 15 Aug 2005

180 comments, Last at 19 Aug 2005, 12:50pm by Carl


by ABW (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 1:15pm

Will the "TO's old agent forgot to file his papers for free agency" thing die already? It's been discredited a number of times now in comments on this site, and it was most notably rejected by an independent arbritator who barely even held a hearing before pretty much declaring that the 49ers, the Ravens, and the NFL didn't have a leg to stand on. I'm not defending TO for his actions right now, but if he was going to bitch about something, he could have bitched about the way that was handled and been right about it. But that was last year, he signed a perfectly reasonable contract, and now he's just being a whiny little brat.

by Aaron (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 1:30pm

OK, sorry -- I must have missed the discrediting. Hate to rehash old rumors, especially wrong ones, so can someone point me to that information? Thanks.

by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 1:34pm

Maybe all the Peter King haters can give him some credit for his TO prediction a year ago.

by Old Man Phil (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 1:35pm

TO is just a spoiled, very-selfish- jackass. He has always "walked the talk" in the past, so he is tolerated.

But this time he has gone way too far. He will return, apologise, and will perform like the superstar he is. But he has lost critical respect from McNabb and other Philly players. After this year, good or bad, he is gone.

by Ray (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 1:40pm

The part that will really hurt TO in the future is the loss of the endorsements he could have had in Philly had he kept his mouth shut. Philly loved him after the Super Bowl. If he played another good year and the Eagles got back to the SB, then he'd have been set for life in Philly. But instead he's pissing it away over a (relatively) few bucks now.

by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 1:42pm

I swear, every time somebody talks about TO's contract, they come up with different figures. I thought I heard before that his base salary for 2005 was less than $1 million. King is saying $3.25 Million (but maybe that includes easily-attained bonuses).

by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 1:46pm

also, I am getting tired of people predicting that the Eagles can't get to the Super Bowl without Owens, and that Owens finally got them over the hump in 2004.

Owens did not play in the final games of the season, or the playoffs. The Eagles got over "the hump" (NFC Championship) WITHOUT Owens.

by Led (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 1:49pm

I think it's more than fair to bash Owens for stabbing teammates in the back, being disrespectful to coaches and othwerwise going out of his way to hurt the team. And he's clearly emotionally immature and selfish (although entertaining in a macabre train-wreck sort of way). But I have no problem with him holding out (or threatening to hold out) to try to force a renegotiation. That's just business. It may not be smart business in this particular case, but that's not a moral issue. Holdouts and renegotiation are as much a part of NFL business as signing bonuses and cap casualties. That's why players almost never criticize their peers for holding out. They know the business.

This is not an Owens issue, but one of the biggest downsides to the salary cap is that it makes contract negotiations a zero-sum game for the team, pitting the players' interest in maximizing their value against the fans' interest in fielding the best team. It takes a very sophisticated and objective fan to understand the player's side of the equation. Destructive personalities like Owens make it even harder.

by Larry (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 1:53pm

ABW makes an important point. I'm not sure about the arbitration process (who essentially filed for it and who had standing to force it to conclusion) but it seems to me that TO perhaps did make a concession. If the arbitrator had ruled, it would certainly have been for TO to be a free agent. Instead he signed a contract with the Eagles. So, he should get some credit there. That said, it was a nice contract, essentially a 2 yr, $12.5 million deal. Owens is probably right he'll be cut next year, but then he'll be able to collect another big signing bonus, so what's the problem?

Also, kudos to King for actually looking at the cap numbers instead of taking the CW that Owens can't be cut due to the hit. Well done. Also shows how well the Eagles handle their cap and that they were aware this could blow up on them this year and planned accordingly cap wise (though perhaps not personnel-wise).

by Larry (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 1:57pm

Sorry for the double-post, but someone asked for contract numbers on TO. You can also find a summary of the whole Eagles cap. King is on the money, as they say.

by Rufus Q. Hifflelumper (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 2:00pm

"Now he is, so he's fair game again."

Hasn't King thumped TO every chance he got, even during the summer, even when not talking about the Herculean skills of Travis Henry?

"lame-brained nut job such as T.O., you never know."

The scribe writes himself.

"What society of enablers allowed this child -- and that is what he is, a child -- to think that in the NFL it is improper for a coach to tell a player to shut up?"

Do we know what Reid said to him? I can think of a lot of times when I'd tell my boss to shut up. Perhaps King's fat ass was in the locker when Reid blew up. I bet not.

"I saw Green Bay defensive coordinator Jim Bates get in the face of a defensive lineman because he got blocked, questioning the guy's manhood in front of every player in camp."

Yes, you motivate by questioning a player's manhood. Am I the only one out here who thinks Green Bay's d-line is going to blow this year, and Bates is going to be only one reason for that?

Bates was an OK improvement over Wannstedt in Miami last year (but a paper clip would have been a better play caller than DW), but he's not exactly the greatest coach since Lombardi.

In Green Bay, however, they'll keep anyone who can keep the Eagles from converting a Fourth and 26 play.

"When someone ghost-writes McNabb's autobiography in 15 years, I guarantee you McNabb will be saying something very similar."

King: Will Hack for $$$ (call me, D, I don't want to compete with Stephen Singular)

"I haven't heard Owens say much about union issues, and I don't see Owens up front with other player/leaders like Troy Vincent on the collective bargaining agreement."

But we have heard Vincent and other NFLPA leaders backing Owens. King always has been anti-union. He's a toadie to his front office sources.

"If you don't like the system, work to change it."

Anyone want me to quote King when he was fulminating about the 1993 labor dispute? Guess which side he chose then? He's all for working "to change it" as long as the players don't change it.

"Here's my bottom line, and it's what I told Mitchell..."

King, you attack TO for thinking he's more important than the game. What about you? Why is a reporter waddling around the players and coaches giving advice? Keep your nose in the steno and your mouth on the latte, not the lap of whichever owner you're humming to get this week's scoop.

"and try to prove to some of us who think you're the worst kind of problem with American sports today that we're wrong. Please."

Sure, TO's spat with the Eagles (remember, he reported to play) is more important than steroids, the "scholar athlete" sham that is high-revenue NCAA sports and labor/management strife that, in recent years, shut down MLB, NFL and, most recently, NHL.

You're right, you bloated toad, TO is the biggest problem in sports today.

"Jack, as someone who's covered the NFL for 21 years, let me explain to you what I pull for and root for: my story."

Oh, yeah, and that story consistently is some hagiography about a guy who talks to me (see Favre, Brett), the latest hep team and its star (New England's Brady is soooooo dreamy) and a rant about how selfish Player X is compared to "that's just the way it is" for the owner.

Someone please convince Allen Barra to write more and King much, much less.

by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 2:10pm

I've been trying to guess who Rufus really is. I'd been leaning toward Rush, but then I got to the last line and bingo! It's Allen Barra. Gotta be.

by Lionel (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 2:11pm

"Also, kudos to King for actually looking at the cap numbers instead of taking the CW that Owens can’t be cut due to the hit. Well done."

Actually, King DID NOT DO THAT. See the link mentioned above to a better rehashing of TO's LTBE K.

The point many of us have been making for some time isn't that there is some hug number the Eagles couldn't absorb if they decided to cut him. Rather, it's a question of when TO's skills, or the expectation of what he will do, no longer meshes with his compensation.

The tipping point comes before the 2007 season. There's a dead money hit of nearly $3 million because of the bonus. No one seriously expects the Eagles to honor the k past 2006 because, for the first time, TO's annual wage will be prohibitively high for a position with such a high risk of injury.

The Eagles have to decide if they want to pro-rate a $5 million roster bonus next year. Smart money says they won't do this, especially when one tracks the rising expenditures under their current cap management.

King would be "on the money" if he told his readers, "You know, TO signed a contract with the Eagles, but Philadelphia will never honor it because they don't have to. He's working, basically, for a year. He has no right to ask for more money, even though his team can ask him for less, or cut him."

by Josh H (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 2:11pm

Re: #2

Aaron -

According to some careful observers on this site, and reiterated by ElJefe in post 25 of the "Pinkston Out for Year" comments thread:

"TO’s agent did file the papers properly. The problem was that the 49ers and the league were [wrong in not] respect[ing] the legal validity of the contract TO signed. That is why the matter ended up before an arbitrator and, ultimately, TO got to choose where he would play... TO’s agent did exactly what he should have. The contract TO had with the 49ers specifically gave him the right to opt-out of the contract after the league-wide deadline for Franchise and Transition designations. Hence, by waiting until that day (as was stipulated in the legally-binding contract he negotiated, taking precedent over the CBA even though the league couldn’t figure this out until it was before the arbitrator), TO’s agent guaranteed that TO would [not be franchised by San Fran and thus would be a free agent]. He and his agent just got screwed by the league [by being forced into arbitration when in fact he should have been designated a free agent from the get-go]."

by Pablo Ibbieta (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 2:13pm

A lot of people seem to be saying variations on this: "Terrell Owens argues that the owners have the ability to void his contract at any time. While this seems unjust, this is in the NFL CBA."

This is not, exactly, true. Players and teams can write guaranteed contracts, the CBA does not prohibit it. Adam Vinatieri’s last contract with the Patriots was guaranteed for the entire contract length, if I remember correctly.

It led to a funny situation with Coach Belichick having to go from saying, "no one is guaranteed a roster spot" to "no one, except Adam, is guaranteed a roster spot." People who have read Catch 22 will get the reference.


by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 2:16pm

Owens is probably right he’ll be cut next year, but then he’ll be able to collect another big signing bonus, so what’s the problem?

Unfortunately, he's too short-sighted. I can't believe any team would ever give him a big contract after this fiasco.

by Aaron (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 2:17pm

Regarding the Eagles getting over the hump without T.O., like any team, they want to have the best players on the field to give the best chance to win. It is very unlikely that the NFC will be as weak this year as it was in 2004, and all it takes to keep the Eagles from the Super Bowl is one team that can beat a T.O.-less Eagles in 2005 but couldn't in 2004. Also, ask any Philadelphia fan, and I'm guessing they'll tell you that getting to the Super Bowl is not the hump. Winning the Super Bowl is the hump.

by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 2:22pm

Off Topic -

Aaron, did you ever appear on KXTA 570 in San Diego/Los Angeles on Friday? I tuned in to hear you, but either missed it or they moved the time or something.

by MDS (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 2:23pm

I'm really sick of this story, but I'm going to say a couple of things anyway:

1. I don't know if I've ever seen the media more consistently wrong about something than they have been about the whole "TO's agent didn't file the paperwork" story. I don't want to write a 1,000-word post here, but basically what happened was TO's agent and the 49ers had a differing opinion of what was required of each side according to TO's contract. When that happens, it goes before a "special master". In this case, the special master was a man named Stephen Burbank. But before Burbank could rule, the sides came to an agreement, which would send Owens to Philadelphia in exchange for token compensation to the 49ers and Ravens, who wanted to work out a trade for Owens. Everyone who has studied it agrees that Burbank was going to rule in TO's favor and make him a free agent, which is why the NFLPA advised Owens not to make the deal. Owens told Gene Upshaw that he was going to disregard the Union's advice, and he signed with the Eagles. It's hilarious that a guy who wouldn't listen to his union would have a complaint about his union's collective bargaining agreement.

2. TO has said lots of stupid things, but "I'm not the one who got tired in the Super Bowl" isn't one of them. The fact is, TO sucked it up and played through pain in the Super Bowl, and some of his teammates couldn't keep up. The fact that the Patriots were in better shape than the Eagles was obvious to everyone watching the game and TO has every right to be angry that his teammates weren't as dedicated to conditioning as he was.

by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 2:24pm

Regarding the Eagles getting over the hump without T.O., like any team, they want to have the best players on the field to give the best chance to win. It is very unlikely that the NFC will be as weak this year as it was in 2004, and all it takes to keep the Eagles from the Super Bowl is one team that can beat a T.O.-less Eagles in 2005 but couldn’t in 2004. Also, ask any Philadelphia fan, and I’m guessing they’ll tell you that getting to the Super Bowl is not the hump. Winning the Super Bowl is the hump.

I'll agree, that they have a much better chance with (a happy) TO this year, than without him (especially with Pinkston gone). But, the fact remains that they advanced to the Super Bowl WITHOUT him last year.

by zach (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 2:44pm

there is an eagles/steelers preseason game tonight.

preseason, yes, but at least it's football. it will be nice to be reminded that the eagles are a football team and not a reality show.

by Ray (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 2:50pm

If (IF!) TO had acted and played this year like he did last year, there's no guarantee the Eagles would have cut him to avoid the $5M roster bonus due next year. The Eagles plan their cap far in advance, and have not cut a player for cap reasons for a long time. My guess is that they were going to let Corey Simon walk after speading a year under the franchise tag to make room for TO.

All that is conjecture of course, because now there is no way the Eagles won't cut him after this year. But everyone always assumes that the Eagles always intended to cut him before the '06 roster bonus, even though such a move would be very uncharacteristic for this front office.

Why assume that they didn't plan for the cap space required for his contract when everyone agrees that planning for the salary cap is one of the things the Eagles front office does best?

by kjbad (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 3:18pm

zach, I doubt the "network" will pass up another opportunity to update us on T.O.Gate...what would be refreshing (and what would hurt T.O. the most, BTW) is a self-imposed moratorium on T.O. comments. Not one word about T.O. for the entire broadcast. No interviews, no "sightings", nothing about T.O. for 3 straight hours of Eagles football.

THAT would send the message loud and clear that football goes on without Owens...but it won't happen.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 3:18pm

there is an eagles/steelers preseason game tonight.

What's the over/under on mentions of T.O. and Hines Ward?

by elhondo (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 3:21pm

I don't get why people who hate Peter King still read his column. I happen to enjoy his column myself.

If T.O. gets cut next year, I bet a lot of teams line up to give him a one-year contract.

by Adam H (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 3:27pm

Re # 19 point #2.
Being right doesn't mean it wasn't stupid to say. What possible positive effect could knocking your own quarterback have for him? I really believe he will never see the money that the Eagles were going to pay him, let alone a raise. He will get cut next spring and no one will offer him anything close to what he thinks he's going to get. It will be all his fault. Would you break the bank for a 33 year old trouble maker/prima donna?

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 3:28pm

If T.O. gets cut next year, I bet a lot of teams line up to give him a one-year contract.
Depends what you mean by "a lot." Less than 8 would be my guess.

And I bet no more than one offers a multi-year deal with a multi-million-dollar signing bonus.

by JCD (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 3:34pm

I thought King made some good arguments but there are a couple of things that bother me. Trading for TO was not a disaster or a huge mistake. He gave them an excellent chance to win the Super Bowl last year and that alone made the deal worth it. The Eagles did not give up much in the trade with the 49ers and TO is not killing their cap. The deal was a good deal.

My other problem is the whole NFL franchise attitude that the players are your property. I hear that TO is such a distraction, so detrimental to the team, etc. but... the Eagles shouldn't cut him because... "that's what TO wants" or some other nonsense. Franchise Tags, restricted Free Agents, non-guaranteed contracts favor the franchises and make doing moves that are in the franchises interests but cold hearted to the players (like cutting Troy Brown this past offseason or franchising Westbrook again to keep him from his big pay day). This is how the teams are expected to act, but would seem like reprehensible behaviour in many other business fields (Thanks for the years of loyality Troy and for filling in for others and playing well, but we're going to have to tear up your contract because we can better production at a cheaper price).

Kind of rambling but I guess my point is that TO can be gotten rid of whenever the team wants and the Eagles haven't chosen to do that so he is expected to provide positive value to his team.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 3:47pm

If TO really doesn't like working for the Eagles, he can always quit. I hear McDonalds is hiring.

by big_adventure (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 3:50pm

#27 -

I think we disagree on this one. If watching the evolution of team sports during the free agent period has taught us anything, it is that some teams are ALWAYS willing to overpay a player who has proven themselves in the past. Even if they can't produce anymore. 95% of the fans love these moves. 98% of the broadcasters applaud these moves ("What a great signing! Getting a proven 1000 yard receiver/rusher like Joe Shmoe is exactly what this team needs!" I can hear Theismann now...). And, like him or hate him, you can't deny that T.O. has produced. We also can assume that it is likely he still can produce. No, the Pats (whom I loathe, but respect) wouldn't sign T.O., but what about Atlanta?Cinncinati? New Orleans? The Giants? The Cowboys? SOMEONE is going to pour plenty of jack into TO's pockets. Long contract, large bonus. Does Vegas drop advance lines on props like this? They should.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 3:58pm

BA (#30 )--

You know, while I was previewing my brilliant comment in #27, I was thinking to myself, "What about the Saints? Giving millions to a disruptive player seems about right. Or maybe the Raiders."

But that's the beauty of the big money they paid to McAllister and Moss -- they don't have enough left to give T.O.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 4:05pm

What about the Redskins? Now that they've lost Coles, they have a shortage of loudmouthed wide receivers.

by Goldbach (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 4:08pm

Re 28:

Nobody forces players to sign non-guarunteed contracts. The entire contract could be guarunteed to begin with if the player (or his agent) decided to negotiate it in the contract to begin with. The problem is that the team would not put as many zeroes in the contract if it was all guarunteed, so players and agents don't do this, since it wouldn't help their egos (and ability to recruit other clients).

by Jeff J. (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 4:10pm

As a Skins fan, I can sit back and relish this gradual eroding of the Eagles' dominance. I feel (a little) bad for McNabb, but knowing that Washington will have a fighting chance against the NFC's best makes it all better.

Keep talkin', T.O.!

by big_adventure (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 4:14pm

#31 - As a number of my friends, died-in-the-wool Raiders fans all, are very happy about. They have financially stripped themselves of the ability to make any more mistakes! I love watching Moss when he's on and cares. But he's battled owies quite a bit recently and just isn't on as much because of them.

#32 - I was pretty surprised that they didn't land FredEx when he was on the market. Loudmouthed, cheap AND talentless. I would mike that guy every game - as he rusts to the bench as a 4th wideout - just to hear his "I would have HAD that..." comments.

by random (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 4:31pm

RE 34:
Yeah, go skins

But, seriously in the superbowl was i the only one who noticed t.o. getting handled in the end zone by 180 pd. new england cornerbacks, notably asante samuel. The patriots play a bend but don't break defense and t.o. did most of his damage between the 20's in the superbowl. IMO, if ty law was healthy for that game owens would have had freddie mitchell numbers. He struggled against shawn springs in 2 games last year for god sakes.

by zach (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 4:49pm

#34: let's wait until they lose a game or two before we start declaring the erosion of the eagles' NFC dominance (not to mention NFC East).

their ability to stay focused amid bullsh... controversey will obviously be challenged, but at the moment they remain the five-game champs of the NFC East.

by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 4:51pm

In light of the latest in TO-gate, I hereby demand that we officially begin a petition drive to force the Eagles to trade Owens to the Raiders.

TO on one side, Moss on the other, demanding to be fed a steady stream of passes FROM KERRY COLLINS. Add in the locker room hilarity of Warren "Cartman" Sapp and Al Davis, and the possibility of a reality TV mega-event cannot be denied.

We must make this happen! This is more important than football!

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 4:55pm

One of King's better column's in a long time. Just goes to show you can't go wrong bashing T.O. But there's one bit I think is way off. King asks (then answers) -

"Do contracts in the NFL favor teams because they allow clubs to cut players at any time in the offseason without being obligated to pay them the rest of the contract? Yes. Of course they are."

This is fundementally incorrect. The fact that the vast majority or NFL contracts aren't guaranteed favors niether the teams or the players (collectively). When a player gets cut with years left on his contract, the team still spends that money on players, just not him. The salary cap is what limits player $$. If every contract was guaranteed, teams wouldn't spend any more on players than they do now.

by Jersey (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 4:57pm

Westbrook was never franchised... he's a RFA who had to sign his tender before it expired and he would be ineligable for FA next year.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 5:00pm

Carl (#38 )--

Picture this: Raiders 1st and goal from the 4. Moss and Owens in at WR, Sapp eligible at TE. Collins audibles to a QB keeper and scores.

by zach (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 5:04pm

in the latest news, the birds have sent T.O. a written notice detailing their complaints with his behavior, as "the beginning of a process to suspend Owens from the team if Owens' behavior does not change after that meeting [with Big Red] takes place." and it was clarified that T.O. is not necessarily coming back to practice on wednesday, but only meeting with Reid, at which point Reid will decide whether or not to allow him to practice.

actual football... close.... just... four hours... to go...

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 5:18pm
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 5:21pm

For negotiating guaranteed contracts, I recall reading in MMQB a few years ago about Michael Strahan's negotiations for a contract extension. I forget the exact details (because I don't care enough to remember), but basically the Giants offered a big contract, bu Strahan wanted more of it to be guaranteed and mild ugliness ensued. After a while they compromised, and signed a deal which had more guaranteed money, but the total value was significantly less than the original offer. The moral - you certainly can, even with the current CBA, get a guaranteed contract. Just don't expect it to be nearly as much as a non-guaranteed contract. It's a gamble - do you take the medium guarantee, or the small guarantee with big potential?

People seem to forget this kind of thing when this complaint (non-guaranteed contracts) is aired, which it usually is about 4x a week nationally. Suppose, in the next CBA, that the players get all contracts guaranteed. What do you think will happen to total payouts? Today's $5 million non-guaranteed would be tomorrow's $2 million guaranteed.

Regarding the potential market for TO - don't forget that a year ago, he was openly shopped around the league, and only two teams even bothered to make an offer, and one of them was an insult. In the interim, the only thing that's changed is that he's a year older and broke his leg. It's not like either his amazing talent or his mememememememe attitude is a recent discovery. Don't think teams will be flocking to grab him this year too much more than last.

by JonL (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 5:37pm

This was brought up a while earlier, but the Eagles have had a gaping hole at WR for a while now (excluding TO). Why have they been such poor evaluators of WR talent? Pinkston, FredEx, Thrash - these are not starting wide receivers. Is it that their draft position doesn't allow them to get decent WRs, or does their front office focus too much on defense and ignore the WR position come combine time?

by Daniel (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 5:41pm

I doubt anyone on the Raiders wants T.O. After Owens openly criticized Moss for lackluster effort I cannot see Moss wanting to play on the same team with him. And Porter is one of Al Davis' favorite players. Besides, every year it seems like more and more top caliber talent is flooding into the NFL at wide receiver. Why would any team trade away assets for the right to overpay a 31 year old infant that doesn't work or play well with others?

by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 5:41pm

B, we must get out the word: Free TO!

I get all jittery just thinking of the huddle blowup after KERRY FREAKIN' COLLINS hits Moss in the back with a dying duck or clanks the pigskin off TO's helmet before he can make his cut.

Jerry Porter is one of the brightest, nicest and talented people I know. The Raiders are lucky to have him. But the time has come for the greatest reality TV show of all time to air.

Does no one else see the genius in this? It would be the greatest trade of all time.

Al, make this happen!

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 5:48pm

Trogdor is correct - what TO and agents are saying are things like "It's not fair because all that backloaded money isn't guaranteed." But that ignores the fact that if it was guaranteed, there'd be $0 in backloaded money (and $0 in eight-figure upfront bonuses).

Look to the NBA as to what happens in a system with a salary cap (admittedly one with so many loopholes as to be ridiculous) where contracts are guaranteed - teams get hamstrung with completely unmarketable players whose agents told them "Play hard just this year and then you can slack off eternally." They got their 6-year guaranteed mega-deal, and then they took the rest of their career off while laughing all their way to the bank, while their teams are so salary-cap hosed that in today's NBA, you have to GIVE AWAY draft picks to get rid of your high-priced players, not get them in return. Cap-strapped teams end up in the gutter year after year, with no chance to move out, because they have no ability to sign new free agents.

In a guaranteed-contract system, there's also the question of "What happens if a team doesn't have enough players but hits the cap?" Right now, players get cut or contracts restructured...but in a guaranteed system, contracts will have to be short-term to ensure that doesn't happen.

Think me-me-me players like TO would play hard, ever, if their money was gauranteed? Not a chance. But even were every contract set up that way, you'd simply end up with short-term, low-dollar contracts, and the day of the Mega-Million Signing Bonus would be history, because there'd be too much risk in giving it out.

Players want the golden trough of guaranteed contracts but with everything else (giant backloaded contracts, huge eight-figure signing bonuses, long-term deals) remaining the same, and that can't happen. Some teams (Mr. Snyder? Mr. Rosenhaus on line 2) might make some disastrous mistakes, but the smart teams would simply adjust to a new reality, and start giving out many more 1- and 2-year deals, and the overall result will be what it is now - if a player doesn't perform, maybe they wouldn't get cut, but no one would be bidding for their services 1 year later.


by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 5:59pm

Okay, I've never been the biggest Peter King fan, but this one quote has all by itself made me one:

I think Jack Del Rio needs a lesson in journalism. He actually said: "What I believe is that anybody who covers our football team in the city of Jacksonville ought to be pulling for and rooting for and be considered a Jaguars guy and be a Jaguars guy." Jack, as someone who's covered the NFL for 21 years, let me explain to you what I pull for and root for: my story.

You go, dog.

by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 6:05pm

OK. I know a lot of agents. I just got off the phone with one of them. I can't imagine one of these guys ever telling a player to "(p)lay hard just this year and then you can slack off eternally."

The reality is that athletes have learned to condition their bodies and minds for a long career. The NHL, which has the longest period of indentured servitude before free agency kicks in, found out the hard way that some of the geezers coming onto the market as newly free agents could command millions of extra dollars in compensation because they were still the best at their positions.

NBA players realized this, too. Yes, they could make a lot of money while doing little for several years. But what about the second contract? They want to keep making that money!

Add to that the reality that the psychology of a star athlete isn't exactly like that of Joe Sixpack. They are star athletes because of a supreme effort to make themselves exponentially better than a wide range of very talented men. There is a certain drive there.

That's why I'm a bit bothered when I see columnists portraying TO as some sort of shiftless, lazy malcontent.

Not only does that feed certain racial stereotypes that should die ASAP, but disregards the reality of Owens' career. Yes, he's fought vehemently with his QB, his coaches, every front office he's encountered, his agents and CBs on both coasts.

But he's never slacked off. He's played hurt. He suited up for the Super Bowl even after his surgeon refused him permission to play.

He's a competitor, just like Michael Jordan or Derek Jeter are competitors.

As for one or two year deals, most players in the league would laugh at that. In a world of guaranteed contracts, there wouldn't be much of a "hard" cap left. And what was left wouldn't attract the best and brightest to a one- or two-year contract.

Certainly, upfront, guaranteed signing bonuses would be a fraction of what we have now. Instead, you would see unregulated spending for talent which, last time I checked, was called "capitalism."

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 6:12pm

re #45: I wonder if the Eagles recent success and their lack of big-name WRs (and therefore lack of money committed to WRs) aren't related. This is something I've thought about since free agency/salary cap began in 1994 and some teams which signed high profile WRs to big contracts (eg. Broncos and Anthony Miller) missed the playoffs while San Diego made the Superbowl with Tony Martin, Mark Seay and Shawn Jefferson, who'd been 4th, 4th and 3rd WRs the previous season respectively.

For a WR to be productive the line has to give the QB time, the QB has to make an accurate throw, and it doesn't hurt if you have a good enough running game to keep a defense guessing. Simply, spending money at WR should probably be the last thing a team does, after other areas of the team have been taken care of. Perhaps Detroit's performance this season will shed some light on how effective building a team with high darft picks (and salary commitments) at the WR position is.

by MarkB (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 6:43pm

Please read Troglor above - it would be difficult for me to add much, but I'll try anyway. The player's union bargained for signing bonuses, and gave up on guarantees to get them. The player and agents who complain about non-guaranteed years - and those who repeat their whining - do so only after they have their signing bonuses in their bank accounts. A signing bonus is not a bonus for signing, it's an advance on future income. If the teams were to give five year, guaranteed contracts, the signing bonus would go away.
Simply put, there is no free lunch.

by Kim (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 6:44pm

Carl: I'm not sure where you got the impression of writers focusing on TO as a "shiftless, lazy malcontent". I'm sure someone's written something like that, but the majority of stuff I've seen has focused on "malcontent". I give TO full kudos for playing hard, playing hurt, and wanting to win. But, and it's a big but, he's being a total jerk. Regardless of the shouting match with Reid, the fact that he told his offensive coordinator not to talk to him unless spoken to first speaks volumes. And the whole thing with McNabb is just a continuation of his tradition of being a bad teammate. Regardless of how the rest of the folks in the locker room regarded the McNabb/Owens schism, TO seems to have taken it on himself to alienate the rest of the team during training camp (not talking to Hugh Douglass, etc).

Perhaps the Eagles need to dole out "I played well with others today" stickers. Because TO seems to be acting less mature than my 3 year old. [click on link below to see the Gruden's use of stickers. Hilarious]

by Don in DC (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 7:24pm

I do not think it was coincidental that T.O. ratcheted up the pressure (and his bad behavior) shortly after the Eagles' #2 receiver, Todd Pinkston, was lost for the year with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Seeing this injury, TO and his agent/demonspawn Drew Rosenhaus probably perceived a new source of leverage in their ongoing battle with the Eagles.

Think about it. The Eagles' primary receivers from the past 3 years are all gone: Mitchel was cut, Thrash was traded, and Pinkston is IRed. Without TO, the Eagles' passing attack will be crippled.

So, TO and Rosenhaus, I posit, decided to pull this latest round of absurdities, betting that Lurie et al. will finally relent and pay up.

I think they are wrong. The Eagles, as much as I loathe them (I am a Giants fan), are the wrong team with whom to pull this crap. This is going to backfire egregiously in TO's face, and hopefully will mark the decline in the influence of the nefarious Rosenhaus.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 7:30pm

Re: #53:
#50 was a classic example of the standard journalist (and politician) trick -- when they won't (or can't) address what someone actually said, they pretend something else was said and proceed to attack that something else instead of what was really said.

by PhillyCWC (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 7:44pm

Arrrrgggghhh, it is killing me watching the Eagles implode before the season's even started!

On the other hand...only...one hour and....fifteen minutes...until real...football.....

by Lionel (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 7:45pm

RichC, maybe you're reading something I'm not.

It seems to me that Carl addressed exactly what Tarrant wrote. I might not believe it, but he said agents would never tell a player to stop playing hard once a contract is signed.

He didn't say Tarrant believes TO is "lazy" or a "malcontent," but he thinks a lot of columnists print that.

I just googled those words and found that columnists and bloggers use them for Owens and Moss all the time.

I don't know if that's the majority of opinions or not, but "Carl" didn't say it was, just that it bothers him when he hears it.

I came across one article where Stephen Smith says as much. I'm not a big fan of Smith's, but I think he knows the Philadelphia teams and the media there better than we ever will.

I get the feeling you're pretending Carl said something he didn't say to attack journalists or politicians or whatever.

That doesn't seem fair. In fact, it seems "lazy."

by Lionel (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 8:03pm

Aaaaaahhhhhh. The virtues of google. I googled "RichC" and "agent" and discovered this:

"Trusting the Boston Globe when it comes to anything Patriots-related? And you want us to take you seriously? The beat writer (Nick Cafardo) and the football “columnist� (Ron Borges) have long, clear track records of distorting (or outright mis-stating) the facts to fit their anti-Kraft/anti-Belichick agendas."

He seems to be on a jihad to get Boston columnists and stop their "anti-Kraft/anti-Belichick agendas."

Carl, you made the mistake of coming across as a reporter.

by Larry (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 8:09pm

Re #49:

Actually, while Del Rio's sentiment is abhorrent, I don't think King gets the high road with the retort. He should be rooting for "a story," which he should dilligently dig for and uncover. To root for "my story," suggests King has his story in advance (and I think we all know he probably does) and he's rooting for it to become true. That's lazy reporting for sure, and not deserving of praise.

by Another Rich (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 8:21pm

Wait a minute.

---- Players want the golden trough of guaranteed contracts but with everything else (giant backloaded contracts, huge eight-figure signing bonuses, long-term deals) remaining the same, and that can’t happen. -----

Don't they want one or the other, not both? And don't they really want 'guaranteed' contracts over signing bonuses. Everything I read has some player complaining that he wants a contract like baseball players. They want their wages to be guaranteed. They'll give up the signing bonuses because it's pretty much the same thing but it removes the risk from them and puts it where it usually goes (as Carl put it) in the hands of the owners.

MLBPA is pretty powerful and they don't have both long-term deals and giant signing bonuses. Because of long-term contracts, however, they do have their wages guaranteed because the teams insure them through third parties.

Click on my name for a good blog about that.

The current NFLPA leadership disputes this. I have always wondered if there's a groundswell of support for change at NFLPA and that guaranteed contracts will be the final push to change all that.

Said Chicago defensive end Adewale Ogunleye: ``Drew is doing far more for us than our own union.''


by Lionel (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 8:28pm

It seems we're doing the same thing, Another Rich.

I found some, too.




Carl, is there some kind of "internal revolt" in the NFL over guaranteed contracts?

by Adam H (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 8:35pm

Good thing my nephews left. I say the F-word (in one context or another)
every time Michael Irvin comes on my T.V. "Climton Pordus, Fum Da Yooo!..."

by Felix Navidad (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 8:38pm

re 57.

in philly its been funny watching stephen smith and phil sheridan yell at each other over this

to talks to smith but not sheridan

game tonite

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 9:01pm

If one wants to seriously degrade the NFL as an entertainment product, keeping the salary cap, while fully guaranteeing contracts, would be a good way to do it. Look no further than the NBA, where the various stiffs keep their teams in cap (and a loose cap at that) purgatory, if not out and out cap hell, year after year, while they loaf through their contracts. Baseball, for all it's problems, doesn't perpetually destroy a team's prospepcts, as long as an owner is willing to risk losing money.

The NFL's system strikes the best balance, in terms of guaranteeing geographically wide-spread fan interest. A hard salary cap removes propensity to spend money on talent as an impedimant to any team's competitiveness. Contracts which aren't required to be guaranteed (although there isn't anything in the CBA to prevent a player from getting a 100% guaranteed contract), allows a team to bury their mistakes quickly, and not suffer through them year after year.

If Owens doesn't think his current contract has enough guaranteed money, well, he screwed up when he didn't negotiate for more guaranteed money last year. There is nothing in this conflict which is indicative of any "unfairness" in the current CBA. Actually, "unfairness" is a term that should be avoided in describing any lawfully negotiated agreement, although the current CBA does contain some provisions which puts the players at distinct disadvantage, the most prominent being the frachise designation.

by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 9:10pm

With gauranteed contracts, wouldn't every NFL game be played with the same intensity as the Pro Bowl?

by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 9:12pm

the most prominent being the frachise designation.

Doesn't the franchise tag gaurantee that a player makes money equal to the average of the 3 highest-paid players at his position? What's so unfair about that?

(Seriously...I always hear the franchise tag as being something horrible. What's wrong with perpetually being gauranteed to be one of the top-3 highest-paid at your position?)

by andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 9:13pm

Well, let's see how the Eagles start out in the preseason game throwing to their other WRs....

whoops. never mind.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 9:17pm

It is far more difficult for the NFLPA to be as effective as the MLBPA as a negotiating unit. Players' careers are shorter, which makes a work stoppage far more costly to the average football player. Baseball players come up through the minor leagues where they build solidarity with each other as professional baseball players, whereas the NFL benefits from a huge farm system that they don't have to pay for, and in which the players are conditioned to have extremely little say in how they are managed by an arbitrary management group, the NCAA.

To be fair, the NFLPA does seem to realize the benefit of negotiating for the percentage of a pie which grows by leaps and bounds, as opposed to one which is stagnating in size. I think we have seen the high tide of baseball contracts, unless the game starts getting bigger t.v. contracts, whereas the NFL t.v. revenue keeps getting bigger and bigger, which means the salary cap will keep getting bigger and bigger.

by Paul (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 9:22pm

Well, this preseason game is going to be one that showcases how well the Pittsburgh QB hand the ball off. You'll handoffs left, handoffs right, and the all important handoff up the middle. No team has QBs as practiced as the Steelers QBs for that handoffs. If the Steelers want to get fancy, they'll pull off their big move: the toss.
Sarcasm aside, 125 seconds, 14-0, and the offense hasn't stepped on the field. Lucky for the Eagles it is preseason.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 9:28pm

Richie, the player isn't perpetually guranteed anything in the franchise system. If Walter Jones had been so unlucky as to blow out his knee in any of the years he was franchised, he would have missed a very large payday. The franchise system forces the player to bear 100% of the financial risk from a career-ending injury, and the vast majority of the risk from a just a very serious injury. Also there is something to be said for a player having the freedom to choose what city he works and plays in, after his contract has expired.

I wouldn't have any trouble with making the franchise system more strict; perhaps prohibiting any player from receiving the designation in consecutive years.

by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 9:39pm


I'm sure most players given the franchise tag have the option of settling for a contract with a lesser amount, but getting more gauranteed money, just like any other player.

Edgerrin James has an offer of a 3-year contract with a $4MM signing bonus, and $3MM per year.

Or, he could refuse and get a franchise tag of 1-year, $6MM.

If he is cut in preseason, how much of that 6 mil does he get in 2005?

If he is injured in preseason, how much does he get?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 9:46pm

Richie, not having the option to go elsewhere immediately reduces a player's leverage. Also, go check what top flight offensive tackles earned in signing bonuses, as opposed to what Walter Jones earned his first franchise year. If Jones had blown out a knee or a back, and had his career ended, he would have lost millions, even if that franchise year was fully guaranteed, which I don't think is the case.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 9:50pm

Well, let’s see how the Eagles start out in the preseason game throwing to their other WRs…

Oh, bleah, it's preseason. You're allowed to have mistakes occur (although last preseason, the first play was an 81 yard touchdown pass to Owens - this year it's an interception returned for a touchdown. But it's preseason).

Since that first series, they look pretty good. Came back from a 1st and 25 and a 1st and 20, and all three of the starting receivers (Lewis, Brown, and McMullen) have 20+ yard catches.

by Ras (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 10:07pm

People wake up! The best thing about the NFL is its parity. The idea that just about any team is only a year away from greatness. Parity is maintained by a combination of two things; 1. Salary Cap 2. No guaranteed contracts. The salary cap makes sure there is no MLB situation where a few teams monopolize most of the talent. However, the salary cap is not enough alone.

With a salary cap and guaranteed contracts you wind up with an NBA situation, where even one or two bad moves can kill a team for years by eating cap space with an underachiever. The ability to rid themselves of a lousy contract is what allows NFL teams to make such dramatic turnarounds. If you are a fan of great football you should hope that players never manage to gain guaranteed contracts.

Players need to wake up sign shorter deals and ask for more of a signing bonus. That is their guarnateed money. Why sign a six or seven year contract when the likelyhood of a player actually playing for the whole contract is on par with the World Series chances of the Devil Rays.

by Paul (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 10:19pm

Philly and McNabb did look pretty good on their scoring drive, but their special teams have been horrid. Steelers second offensive drive with almost 10 minutes left in the second quarter because of an INT TD, a PR TD and a KR TD.
Also, is anyone else sick and tired of hearing about TO and McNabb? Westbrook and Ward ended their holdouts this week and almost completely overshadowed by the whole TO business. Being a Steelers fan I have wanted news on Ward for the past two weeks, and heard nothing prior to the announcement about 3 hours before game time that his holdout was over. Maybe if I was in Pittsburgh there was regular news, but nothing in Florida. But Florida did not insulate me from hearing about TO every single day.

by Dervin (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 11:18pm

It seems to me the only argument against guaranteed contracts is the Front Office for major sports teams are made up of brain damanged idiots who will thow tons of money at any shiny object.

by Athelas (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 11:30pm

Westbrook was holding out too?!
Who knew.

On the other hand, it seems to me that guaranteed contracts give more money to underperforming players and less to those who deserve it (since there is a finite total for a team).
But please feel free to correct me, if this is incorrect.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 11:52pm

No, Dervin, the better argument is that there is no reason to guarantee something that one doesn't have to, and that it is pretty difficult to predict which individuals will continue to maximize effort when their entire contract is guaranteed.

by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Mon, 08/15/2005 - 11:56pm

T. O. seems simple to me. I honestly don't think the money means that much to him--if it did, he wouldn't be acting like such a jackass with what's on the table. What he's all about is the love, and he wants more than anyone else. He's not loved as much as Moss or Harrison, and what the money is--it's proof of that.

I wonder what would have happened if Reid had gone to him, Cowher-to-Ward style, and given him a few hours of "I love you T.O."?

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 12:16am

re #74: interesting point about how players should sign shorter contracts. It always confuses me that it's the players who seem to want the long-term contracts. If contracts aren't guaranteed, surely players should want to sign as short a contract as possible, so that they can re-negotiate after each season (which would be more to their advantage, since at the moment they can be cut if they get injured or have a bad season without seeing the money on the rest of their contract, but they can't really re-negotiate if they have a great season (although obviously some guys are trying))

Another question: I've heard it said that TO outplayed his contract. The guy's stats were:
77 catches (22nd in the league)
1200 yards (11th in the league)
15.6 yards/catch (23rd amongst qualifyers)
14 TDs (3rd)

Out of interest, who thinks that this represents production that was way in excess of what the Eagles paid him for?

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 12:38am

Owens played 13.5 games in 2004. Scale those numbers up by 18% and you get 90 catches, 1400 yards, and 16 touchdowns, which would've put him alongside Muhammad in almost all the categories.

by SJM (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 1:28am

Here's why guarranteed contracts will destroy football:

Right now, the guy with the most power on the team, the guy the owner is most closely attached to, is the coach (or the GM). Coaches have more staying power because their money is guarranteed while the players can be cut at any time. This gives coaches more authority and prevents players from getting their coaches fired (for the most part). In the NFL right now, teams are wedded to their coaches, not to their star players.

Now compare this to the NBA (or NHL). Star players get huge, guarranteed contracts and get paid way more than coaches. Suddenly teams are tied to their star players and don't have the option of moving them because most of these guys are untradeable or wouldn't bring back equal value. So if a conflict errupts between a player and coach, guess who stays and who gets fired? This is easily born out by the absurd movement among coaches in the NBA and NHL. Now guess which league has the least effective coaching and the most selfish and least team-oriented players? If you guessed the NBA, you're right. This is because the players know that the team will dump a coach before it will dump a star player.

The upshot of all of this is that guarranteed contracts would turn the NFL into the NBA in terms of coaching effectiveness and player selfishness. That would be an epic disaster for those of us who love football.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 2:28am

I would like to see some numbers showing that coaching movement in the NBA and NHL vastly outstrips the NFL. A quick google search suggests otherwise. Not many coaches changed this offseason, but last year seven got axed. That seems about average. The NBA seems to have more and the NHL actually looks to have less, although I didn't come up with a lot of good sites for this info.

A sport like basketball makes it a lot easier for players to be selfish and not team-oriented. In a lot of cases, players become moreso in a contract year. I'm not sure that you can draw any straight conclusions about the relationship between NBA players' contracts and their performance. I'm not sure how NFL players could get any more selfish, other than at QB. All RBs and WRs do is whine for the ball, but they don't have the power to do anything about it.

I'd also like to see a little more proof that players can so easily force a coach out. Kobe seemed to force Phil Jackson out, but Sprewell didn't force Carlesimo out. Kwame Brown was shown the door, not Eddie Jordan.
I guess, in general, it's hard to say if coaches are fired because players don't like them, or their teams aren't winning. I'd usually say it's the latter, and it works the same in the NFL. Maybe the increased parity in the NFL makes it less likely that a team will really suck, and therefore less likely a coach will be fired. But I'm not really too into that theory.

by Dervin (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:24am

Will Allen, the flip side of that is no player will give 100% if they know a serious injury will cost them millions - not going for the extra yard, short-arming the pass over the middle, taking an extra week to heal. If they can making a nice living at 85% effort for 8 years is much better than getting an extra 10% a year for a 3 year career.

I feel no pity for any GM who gives a multi-year, multi-million guaranteed contract to a player who underperformed four out of five years and then winds up underperforming for the next seven years.

What seperates the Professional from the guy playing down at the park isn't talent, but pride. Pride at being the best, they'll still want to be the best even when the money is guaranteed.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:50am

Dervin, if you think that talent isn't what seperates the guy playing in the Super Bowl from the guy playing at his local park, well, I'd like to who is playing at your local park. Next, this isn't about pitying anyone, it is about effectively managing talent. On the whole, guaranteeing future financial rewards without regard to future performance does not maximize performance, and with a very few exceptions, players who give 85% don't last eight years in the NFL.

Any player who now wishes to have a 100% guaranteed contract is free to make such a demand. The fact that no GM would be so silly to agree to it is not indicative of any flaws in the system.

by big_adventure (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 5:17am

#80 - Ryan Mc

Unfortunately, that's not possible in the NFL. The reason for the extremely long deals is that it allows the team to prorate the hit of the signing bonus over a very long period of time versus the cap. The reason for the massive back-loading is it basically lets the player say "whhooooohoooooo! I get a $100million contract!" despite the fact that they have the same chance of collecting that money as a snowball has in the 7th circle of Dante's EasyBake.


by Trogdor (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 6:46am

If I was a player, I'd insist on having one of those extra years tacked on my contract that I'd never have a chance of seeing. And I'd insist that we make it as insane as possible. So if we negotiated a 5-year, $25 million deal, we'd tack on a year to make it 6 years, $100 billion. If it's a purely imaginary year anyway, might as well have fun with it, right?

by Adam H (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 6:49am

All this talk about guaranteed deals...I think I'll watch "The Replacements" tonight.

by B (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 10:18am

Westbrook was holding out too?!
Who knew.
Funny story, and I'm paraphrasing here.

McNabb on TO's hold-out "NO Comment"
McNabb on WEstbrook's hold-out "We have to get that guy in camp as soon as possible."

by Parker (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 10:47am

RE: 86

I think this is right on the money. If players had guaranteed contracts, the contracts would just be 'worth' less. Or maybe it's more accurate to say that the contracts would be a better reflection of what the team was really willing to pay.

I think I remember reading somewhere that Culpeppers $103 million contract contained about $35 mil in actual money he could expect to be paid and that the contract was so back end loaded that there was seemingly no way that the Vikes could pay the last couple of years of it without cutting half the team. In essence, the $103 million is fiction. Now, if it were quaranteed, it would probably look a lot different.

by Ted (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 10:49am

Re #83: I am an NBA fan and it does happen a bit, but probably not as much as is often suggested. There is also a difference between "star player" and Kwame Brown. Some quick examples of a player forcing a coach out: Kobe/Phil, Jason Kidd/Byron Scott, Michael Jordan/Doug Collins, Magic Johnson/Paul Westhead, Penny Hardaway/Brian Hill and I know I'm forgetting a few. The most famous example of a star player losing a feud with his coach was probably Chris Webber and Don Nelson on the mid 90's Warriors. That worked out awful for Golden State as by making CWebb look like an asshole they ended up trading him for 25 cents on the dollar and watched him become a star in Washington and Sacramento. So I guess teams have learned that coaches are more replacable than star players. This is probably less true in football though.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 10:56am

despite the fact that they have the same chance of collecting that money as a snowball has in the 7th circle of Dante’s EasyBake.

I don't believe that's actually true. Sure, the backloading prevents the player from collecting that under his current contract, but it's almost a guaranteed that if they continue playing that well, when the ouchy pain portion of the contract gets near, the team will just renegotiate another contract that spreads the pain out farther, in a probably not backloaded deal.

In a sense, for the player, the backloaded portion of the contract puts some pressure on the team to renegotiate the contract for longer. Granted, the team could just cut him as well - but I don't think it's really feasible to cut some of the players who have heavily backloaded contracts if they're still playing well. The cost to the team as a whole is much larger. Not to mention the cost to the franchise. If Manning is still playing like Manning, they'll extend his contract, and he will get that money.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 11:37am

(#83, #91, et al )--

There is an important difference between football and basketball stars: football simply requires more players. One mega-star in the NBA can take a former bottom-feeder to the playoffs (hi, LeBron!)

One NFL mega-star can take a three-time NFC Championship Game loser and, um, cheer from the bench while his team wins and goes to the Superbowl, since God was still working on that player's leg injury.

by big_adventure (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 12:21pm

#92 - Pat -

What you say is true, to an extent, but it doesn't mean that Ron Mexic... a-hem, "Michael Vick" is going to see his 140 million. He's going to get (due to cap spacing, etc.) a nice, fat 50 or so (I don't remember the numbers off hand, and don't have time to look...), then he will be cut (incredibly unlikely...) or renegotiated. He will get another big fat back-loaded deal, this time for 200 million, and this time he can expect to collect 70 million of it.

Perhaps that example is misdirected at Vick, one of the few players who, despite the lack of evidence that he merits it, probably DOES affect attendance in some noticable way. OK, let's consider Culpepper. IIRC, his contract is cap-able and palletable for a few years, but then, as mentioned, he hits the cap for something like 40%. He is not going to get THAT money - there is just no way. They will renegotiate him, into a 150 million dollar deal that he will see 50 of. So the idea that they "eventually" get all of the money in the deal is probably spurious and definitely not the point. The players don't get all of the money on the deal they sign. If a player signs a 10-year $100 million deal, and then, thanks to renegotiations et. al., collects $100 million over 14 years, they did NOT get the money on that deal. Just a simple pro-rate would be $140 and they got "jobbed."

I'm not complaining on the part of the players - I think that the end-of-deal years that escalate to foolish money just to let a player say "I have a $100 million dollar contract" are asinine, peurile and perhaps six or seven other pretentious words. But they got here by negotiating. This is the system that they have. Ronnie Brown just signed with my Dolphins. He's going to be the highest-paid player on the team this year. He receives a guaranteed $19.4 million dollars during the contract, and he's never taken an NFL snap. So I think the players are doing pretty well. They just aren't getting anything like the money numbers being tossed about in the media or on the net. The cap in the NFL is about $80 million dollars. They have to fit 53 players into this cap. Minimum salaries alone eat up, what, a third of the cap? You can't really expect a team to pay one player half of the remaining money, not if they want ANY chance of winning. The players have to know this. The agents have to know this. The teams (well, most of them) definitely know this. It makes it fun, it makes it a game inside the game.


by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 12:25pm

Precisely, Pat. The heavy backloading forces another round of guaranteed money, following a re-negotiation, for a player who is still performing well. This is what the Vikings are now going through with Culpepper; they just delivered a nice guarantee to Culpepper, with more likely to come before next season starts. The current system of partially guaranteed money really is about best for a system with a salary cap, in terms of making sure that the players who perform well get paid accordingly, while spreading the risk of injury between player and team. I can understand the large desire for the players to get rid of, or heavily modify, the frachise player desgination system, which really does reduce the negotiating power of some of the best performers, while placing the vast majority of injury risk on the player.

It is interesting how seldom the franchise designation is used for quarterbacks, however. This may be due to this position being so head and shoulders above all other positions in regard to team performance, which means that teams think that can't afford to risk alienating a great quarterback.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 12:33pm

Big, teams want long-term contracts to pro-rate the guaranteed money, although their are limits to how many years the pro-ration can be spread over. The heavy backloading ensures that a player who is performing well will get another round of guaranteed money. Although there may be some silly ego-stroking going on in some extreme examples, it's not quite as irrational as is sometimes portrayed.

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 12:33pm

Our regression analysis of NFL injury data found that -- no surprise here -- the QB was the most valuable position on the field when it comes to winning or losing. Lose your QB, and your chance of losing the next game goes up exponentially.

Next on the list, however, is starting WR. So when King complains that TO wants to be "paid like a quarterback," regression shows that someone like Owens contributes nearly as much to a team's wins as the passer, and he risks a 25 percent greater chance of injury per annum.

But that's the one thing you begin to see when you analyze NFL salary data and correlate it to injury numbers. Franchises pay higher compensation, ironically, to those least likely to suffer a catastrophic injury (QB, OL) and far, far less to those who have the highest injury rates (CB/S, RB, etc.).

When you talk to guys like Owens, Porter, Ward, etc., the first thing they mention is that they've been uniquely productive, durable and competitive and remain at risk for the most devastating injuries, often suffered mid-air at high velocity.

Owners, of course, are reluctant to guarantee a contract wherein the wage earner is likely to be injured. They would be more willing to guarantee for a QB (which they essentially do with very large signing and LTBE bonuses), and a certain kicker's contract in New England (a kicker has an injury rate below even a QB's).

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 12:41pm

IIRC, his contract is cap-able and palletable for a few years, but then, as mentioned, he hits the cap for something like 40%. He is not going to get THAT money - there is just no way. They will renegotiate him, into a 150 million dollar deal that he will see 50 of.

I doubt it - because it's incredibly unlikely that Culpepper will be effective for, say, 10 more years. Even he knows that. For crying out loud, it's probably unlikely he wants to play football that long.

Culpepper's next contract probably won't be backloaded - it'll probably have a large signing bonus (covering a lot of the previous contract's backloading), and then tapering salaries, with the expectation that he'll probably retire during the contract. The team knows they'll have to take a large cap hit some year, but hell, when they lose Culpepper, they pretty much have to write off that year anyway. QB transitions suck for teams not named "Patriots".

So I think it's quite likely that players actually do see a significant portion of a backloaded contract - though they see it spread over many more years than the original contract stated, and of course, this is totally contingent upon production.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 12:53pm

Franchises pay higher compensation, ironically, to those least likely to suffer a catastrophic injury (QB, OL) and far, far less to those who have the highest injury rates (CB/S, RB, etc.).
It's hardly ironic. Paying a QB a $20 million bonus this year, amortized over five years, makes more sense than paying the same to a WR. Injury statistics alone say that you'll likely be eating a cap charge sooner for the receiver than for the guy throwing to him.

This is one area where the interests of the team and the players are completely at cross-purposes: the teams would prefer to pay more to players who are more likely to be there next year, while the players at greater risk of injury would prefer more money now. This is the source of much contract wrangling, and the is no CBA or other mechanism that will reconcile these positions. The best anyone will get is an uncomfortable compromise.

Which is what we have under the current CBA. I guarantee the next CBA will be another uncomfortable compromise. I'll also go out on a limb and say that the next CBA, like the current one, will favor the owners. There's no reason to believe that the owners will yield much from their superior bargaining position, out of the goodness of their hearts.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 12:55pm

Lose your QB, and your chance of losing the next game goes up exponentially.

I think you mean "dramatically", though it'd be funny to see the chance of losing a next game go up exponentially with the number of QBs you lose. :) I don't think you'd have too many data points, though.

When you talk to guys like Owens, Porter, Ward, etc., the first thing they mention is that they’ve been uniquely productive, durable and competitive and remain at risk for the most devastating injuries, often suffered mid-air at high velocity.

This is the only reason I have some sympathy for Owens's position. I don't agree that the Eagles would cut him next year before that bonus kicks in if he was productive this entire year. But I can definitely understand the uncertainty in his mind as to whether or not he'd be released if an injury happened early on.

But in my mind, this is such a different argument than the screaming and shouting that Owens is making in public, that it makes you wonder if this really is what he's worried about.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 1:14pm

re #97: Carl, could you provide a link to the study of how valuable each position is. It totally goes against my intuition that losing a starting WR would be devastating to a team, but I am always happy to be proved wrong by some cold, hard facts.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 1:35pm

Well, a player who is substantially more likely to be injured, due to his position, is simply worth substantially less than another player who, due to his postion, is less likely to be injured, if the postions are equally important. When the more likely to be injured player mans a positon that is less important to victory, the discrepancy in worth only widens....gee, this inspires a tune...

..Mama, don't let your babies grow up to wide-outs, don't let'em catch quick- slants, or grab high throws, while making cuts, let'em be qbs, or olts, and such....

...hey, has this song been done already?

Anyways, I would think that one area of agreement in the next CBA might be to install a tighter salary cap on rookies, in return for a larger percentage of revenue being directed to veteran salaries.

by JonL (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 1:38pm

RE: #51 (and yes, I realize that was awhile ago)

I agree generally that WR should be relatively low on the list of priorities for building a team, but that doesn't mean you can't draft well. The Patriots are probably the best example of this (again). Their team is full of unspectacular receivers (except maybe Branch), but they're all solid, they actually catch the ball, and they come at relatively low cost. With the exception of TO, the Eagles' receivers are low-cost but also of a lower quality.

Related to the discussion of contract length, I would like to see franchises of all sports cap their contracts at four or five years max. It makes particular sense in football because I would argue that like baseball, there's a large amount of replaceable talent and, outside of the superstars, peak performance doesn't last that long (which is only my hunch, and I'm sure someone on this site has data to prove me incredibly wrong on this). Also, the money may be distributed more equally across the length of the contract.

by big_adventure (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 1:50pm

Will Allen and Pat -

I don't know that I agree with the Culpepper theory above. Perhaps that is the case, and he will sign for a ton of up-front money and follow that with a string of minimal and decreasing annuals. However, I doubt it. I think he realizes just how much of a dip his stats are going to take THIS year, and unless he can get truly massive up-front money, he's going to stick out this deal and collect whatever he can. Perhaps not, but that's my call based on watching him play. Has there ever been a "great" QB in NFL history who lobbed more lame ducks or missed more EASY passes? He really is not very accurate, and with Moss and Linehan gone permanently, I have a feeling that DC is going to fall into the Minnesota QB-O-Matic. Slices, dices and makes thousands of julliened Georges and Cunninghams. I'd love to be proven wrong.

Ah, well, I can see where you are coming from and I'm sure you can see where I started here. Good enough for me, I suppose.

About the franchise system: it DOES seem pretty unfair to the players, until you realize that it was collectively-bargained for. I would imagine that getting rid of that system will be the number-one priority of Rosenhaus - I mean, the NFLPA, at the next round of talks.


by zach (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 2:18pm

on the subject of actual football, as an eagles fan i was absolutely thrilled with the preseason game last night.

the defense played fantastically. it held the steelers offense to 17 points, and most significantly, held their running game to 1.9 yards per carry. that is, they absolutely shut down one of the league's best running games, with a defense whose weakness is supposed to be the run.

reggie brown and greg lewis looked great. the team went back to its pre-Owens-era passing style, that is, lots of hooking and crossing routes for first downs, in order to set up the deep pass, and it worked perfectly. and ryan moats just looked fantastic in short yardage situations, which is saying a lot for a finesse-style back, and has been a bit of a problem for the eagles in the past. and mike mcmahon of all people lit up the field.

so sure we lost, but the score at the end of a preseason game is meaningless, especially when the steelers scored three TDs on things that will almost never happen in the regular season - that is, scoring kickoff returns, scoring punt returns, and mcnabb throwing interceptions.

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 2:28pm

But that's the beauty of the NFL's system. The reform in the rules that began in 1978 -- innovations that turned professional football largely into a passing attack, instead of rushing -- coupled with free agency and the cap in the early 1990s has aligned perfectly compensation with low injury risk.

QBs and OL are relatively (a loaded word) protected from serious injury, whereas other players are uniquely liable to catastrophic, career-ending injuries. The salaries fall into line accordingly (we use a formula that realistically tracks LTBE compensation from year to year).

What players like Porter, Owens and Ward argue, however, is that if the league had guaranteed contracts, the owners would work much harder to institute reforms in the rules that shifted, or at least better distributed, the risk of injury.

People forget that workplace injuries are largely man-made. The way the industry is regulated (height and weight requirements, rules of play, enforcement patterns, conditioning, training, compensation incentives, turf conditions) creates relative safety for certain players (QB) and very likely and painful injuries for others (CBs, WRs).

Certainly life was safer for WRs and DBs 30 years ago, and rougher for QBs. But the league wants to see passing, and it's better to lose your WR than your passer.

What the star receivers say is that if they had guaranteed contracts like MLBPA enjoys, the risk would be reversed. Owners would pay for insurance and re-insurance on long-term deals with free agents (currently, very few NFL players can afford to insure their compensation, and those who can, of course, are ironically the best paid and least likely to be injured).

To cut those costs, franchises would institute changes to preserve the health of their workers. Sound familiar?

Purists might yell, 'Don't change football! It's the best game in the world!'

But has everyone forgotten that the owners changed football dramatically from the 1970s to today, and there have been consequences. What some players are saying is that it's time to reconsider that, and the way to do so is to change the way they're paid for their services.

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 2:30pm

By the way, Pat, there were 293 QB injuries to analyze in the first study, and I'm working on more than 500 in the current batch. It's not, in any way, an insignificant pool of points.

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 2:44pm

How are contracts gauranteed from an injury standpoint? If a player has a career-ending injury in a game or practice, can he be cut? Or, will he get all of the remaining money on his contract? (I'm guessing no.)

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 2:47pm

The heavy backloading ensures that a player who is performing well will get another round of guaranteed money.

How so? If Peyton Manning suddenly becomes Jay Fiedler, he's not going to get another round of (big) guaranteed money. He's going to get cut.

He's only going to get more guaranteed money if he keeps performing. Which, if he would have signed a reasonable contract to begin with, wouldn't need to be renegotiated later.

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 2:56pm

Franchises pay higher compensation, ironically, to those least likely to suffer a catastrophic injury (QB, OL) and far, far less to those who have the highest injury rates (CB/S, RB, etc.).

Why is that ironic? Seems logical to me. Pay the guys that are more likely to be healthy.

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:03pm


In the rest of industry, those who take the most risk tend to get the most reward. A study of somewhat similar high-injury industries (deep sea fishing, lumberjacking, military specialties, demolition, aeronautical research, etc.) finds that within these sectors, the highest wage earners are those who expose themselves most often to great danger.

It's the exact opposite in football. It makes sense from an owner's perspective, of course, but not from a player's.

If you're a cornerback, you're thinking, 'Hey, why can't I get my money upfront? And a higher amount! I'm going to be the one limping in 10 years, not the punter!"

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:03pm

People forget that workplace injuries are largely man-made. The way the industry is regulated (height and weight requirements,

The NFL has height and weight requirements?

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:07pm


OK, I see your point now. I bet most players (and agents) have no clue which positions really are the most injury prone.

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:08pm

Richie, the NFL has defacto H&W requirements for O-linemen and D-linemen. Now, you're asking, "How do they do that?"

They require in the contracts that players remain at a given weight (say, 340 lbs. for a RG). If he goes under that, he's in breach of contract.

Or, they put incentives into the contracts that require certain players come in bigger, or smaller, then they would tend to be.

This was a key point in the Korey Stringer tragedy. He actually was required to maintain his weight at a very hefty load, more than even that behemoth normally would carry.

Because of instituted requirements like these -- and a revolution in nutrition, conditioning and player selection -- the typical offensive lineman is now 312 lbs.

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:08pm

BTW, I bet this next collective bargaining session is going to be ugly. Unfortunately, a strike/lockout would not surprise me.

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:09pm

ooops... Than, not "then." Doh.

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:11pm

They require in the contracts that players remain at a given weight (say, 340 lbs. for a RG). If he goes under that, he’s in breach of contract.

This is news to me.

by zach (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:13pm

It’s the exact opposite in football. It makes sense from an owner’s perspective, of course, but not from a player’s.

it just makes sense. the reason that high-risk professions normally tend to draw higher wages within their sectors is simply that there is a high demand for people willing to risk injury and do those jobs.

there is obviously no such shortage of people willing to be wide receivers in the NFL. so, the requirement shifts from finding willing workers to finding able workers. the end result is that the job that is hardest to do - QB - is naturally paid the most.

by zach (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:15pm

This is news to me.

haha, shame on you for not having watched "Playmakers".

not that i watched more than one episode, in which this situation happened to have been brought up. but still.

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:28pm

Tell that to a WR, Zach. And this shows the paucity of our own stats. As Yeats would say, "How do you tell the dancer from the dance?" It's the same with WRs and QBs. Who makes whom the star?

Neither, exactly, is as fungible of a position as, say, CB or TE. Partly, of course, a high injury rate would make any position fairly fungible because a team couldn't rely on the world's greatest CB if they knew he had a 71 percent chance of getting seriously injured every year.

A great many players and their agents would argue that what makes a QB so great isn't just that he's bright and efficient, but that he has a well-trained, proficient, professional line to protect him and a fleet, smart and durable set of WRs getting open to catch his throws.

Leigh Steinberg -- I think conclusively -- illustrates this point about the salary cap and offensive linemen. In the days before widespread free agency and the cap, a team would "build," as best it could, a deep stable of O-linemen. They would apprentice together and work their way up to starting roles.

Today, you have "snaggle-toothed lines." That A+ center is sharing space on a line with a B+ OT and a C- guard really learning as he goes.

That's meant increased risk of concussions for QBs behind them because if the line fails, it most likely will break down at its weakest link, the untested rookie on a minimum salary or the past-his-prime vet filling in for the injured stud.

This isn't lost on the league. The best offensive teams build with QB, O-line and WRs, with variations on that order. The Colts are a great example.

Others like to mention New England. What I've always said is that NE has built their offense the same way as the Colts, only they have looked for value in free agents overlooked by the rest of the league (using a very superior understanding of stats), and Indianapolis has done it mainly through the draft, spending their money not to acquire by to retain.

Teams that build with defense can achieve great success (see Baltimore), but not for a long time because eventually the disproportionately high toll of injuries on the D is going to catch up to you.

What Polian and NE have shown us is that you can build a very successful team over a number of seasons by finding value or spending to retain outstanding offensive talent. Now, if the Colts could just get homefield advantage this year...

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:33pm

Actually, Zach found me out. I don't do stat research or cover games. I just bought the DVD deluxe box set of Playmakers and put out a shingle.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:38pm

By the way, Pat, there were 293 QB injuries to analyze in the first study, and I’m working on more than 500 in the current batch. It’s not, in any way, an insignificant pool of points.

Nononono: you said your chance of losing goes up "exponentially" with losing a QB.

If that were true, for instance, losing 1 QB, your chance of winning might go from P to P(e^-1), losing 2 QBs will make your chance of losing go to P(e^-2), etc.

In order to prove that, you'd have to have a large number of teams that had lost at least 3 QBs in one season. I don't think you'd have too many data points on that. Only team I can remember to lose multiple QBs was Philly in 2002, but they only lost 2 QBs (and... their winning percentage didn't go down that much anyway). I think I remember Philly losing multiple QBs in a season previously, but I can't remember when. I can't think of any other teams - definitely not in the past few years, anyway.

There was a smiley face there, you know. :)

by ima pseudonym (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:38pm

#118 - exactly, thank you for saving me the typing.

If T.O. wants to get paid like a qb, he should learn to throw like one.

Carl, why are you so sure that the result of guaranteed contracts would be safer playing conditions? As a profit-seeking owner, why would I risk altering a product (even if it is just returning to the way that it used to be) that is so popular right now just as it is? Why wouldn't I just offer smaller guaranteed contracts to injury-prone positions?

I strongly suspect I could still find good athletes willing to sign. In fact (if I really want to sound like an a** about it), many of these athletes don't have other skills to fall back on, so why shouldn't they take a guaranteed $4 mil. over 5 years to play corner (and risk needing to use a cane to limp around after the age of 32), what else is going to pay them nearly that much?

Hell, give me $4 million right now, I'll let you smash my kneecap with a baseball bat.

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:39pm

By the way, those of you who have bought your Football Prospectus, there's an outstanding primer in there on typical NFL injuries.

And if you thinking I'm harping on injuries just to do that, I'm not. The one thing that unites owners, players and coaches is the realization of the high injury rate in the league and how it affects games and careers.

This is barely even considered in other sports, such as baseball or basketball. I'm not so naive to think that that's the major reason why the NFL has the sort of contracts it has, and the cap, etc.

If the business model mirrored baseball or basketball, and you didn't have the same injury rate, the structure of league finances would be very different.

For those interested in other models, however, I would direct you to international rugby or Australian Rules Football, sports with very high injury rates that have evolved into very different kinds of leagues than the NFL.

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:40pm

I used "exponentially" in a literary sense, Pat, not a statistical way.


by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:43pm

Pat, I might share with you, some day, some of our most interesting research. I called it "chasing the perfect storm."

What happens when you lose your best QB AND your second-best WR? Or your best TE and your best WR? Or you lose almost all of your DBs?

To answer that last question, you're an outlier and you play just outside of Boston and you win another Super Bowl.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:49pm

What happens when you lose your best QB AND your second-best WR?

Ah yes, the beauty of tuning your data set.

Don't forget: Brett Favre is 35-0 in games at home under 34 degrees when not playing an African-American QB wearing #7.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:52pm

I used “exponentially� in a literary sense, Pat, not a statistical way.

... and the point that I was trying to make (and now have completely beaten into the ground, so as to look like I'm nitpicking) is that exponentially (even in the literary sense) implies a rate, whereas you were describing a magnitude. You meant to say "dramatically".

by zach (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:52pm

Tell that to a WR, Zach.

tell him what? that lots of people would love to do what he does for a living, if they were able to? and that his job is not as hard as a QB's?

i would love to. unfortunately, all of my NFL wide receiver buddies have stopped returning my calls. :(

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:53pm

Hey, can I get a link/reference to this research on the effect of injuries by position? Sounds really interesting.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 3:54pm

What I’ve always said is that NE has built their offense the same way as the Colts, only they have looked for value in free agents overlooked by the rest of the league (using a very superior understanding of stats), and Indianapolis has done it mainly through the draft, spending their money not to acquire by to retain.
But that's a pretty substantial difference.

Another difference was that Indy acquired top skill players (Harrison, Manning, James), then built around them, whereas New England built their "O-line Academy" first, then kept plugging in skill players until they found some keepers.

Obviously, both methods have worked pretty well so far, but they are very different.

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 4:01pm

They are more alike than not, Star, and they recognize that. The big difference that most people won't talk about is that the bottom line for NE has been much better than the Colts', largely because of difficult-to-rival revenue streams that come from their unique stadium.

They can risk more upfront money for certain positions or speculative talent than the Colts (or Green Bay, etc.) can. This has nothing to do with the cap and everything to do with balance sheets.

What really turned out well for the Pats was the diamond in the rough they had in Brady. Who knew they had a HOF QB out of Michigan on their bench?

Once identified, however, they made it so.

Another phenomenon we've discussed before is the ability for the Pats to convince players to compete on the field for less than their market value. That sort of premium goes to teams that can deliver championships.

See also, Lakers and Yankees.

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 4:05pm

One more thing before I go. I don't recommend the league adopt guaranteed contracts. I'm not going to tell the NFL players or management what they should do.

I'm just lending some perspective on what some players of TO's caliber say, and why they say it.

I don't care if the NFL has guaranteed or unguaranteed contracts. I don't care if they wear helmets. I don't care if they play on Turf or DD Grass or sandpaper.

It's not my job to give a hoot about any of that. My job is to understand the perspectives of all parties and to communicate that, often using advanced tools borrowed from the social sciences and economics to do that.

And if you want to see the raw data or the resulting research, enclosed a self-addressed, stamped envelope to me and a $25,000 check to cover my expenses.

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 4:07pm

Hey, can I get a link/reference to this research on the effect of injuries by position? Sounds really interesting.

Carl's database is either top secret or just too difficult to share with us.

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 4:09pm

What really turned out well for the Pats was the diamond in the rough they had in Brady. Who knew they had a HOF QB out of Michigan on their bench?

Ha! Yeah, I liked the comment in Pro Football Prospectus that said something to the effect of "31 other teams passed on Brady". Well, New England passed on him 4(?) times before actually drafting him. I'm guessing they didn't think he was HOFer either. (Please no Brady-Manning debate. I was just commenting that New England lucked into him.)

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 4:15pm


I have a friend who is a scout. He uses very sophisticated stat tools to analyze prospective draftees. His indicators kept pointing to Brady as a real steal and it drove him crazy each time his team passed on him.

How would you like to be the one guy who really believed in a player, and no one in your front office will listen to you? AND ONE OF YOUR DIVISION RIVALS PICKS HIM?

He still curses about that one.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 4:22pm

But how many times have the indicators pointed to someone who turned out to be nothing? That, of course, is the basic problem.

by Parker (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 4:27pm

RE: 106

When you put it that way, it sounds pretty reasonable. Of course you never hear it put that way. I just saw Drew R on Costas Now, he worked himself into a lather and was screaming, "You've got a guy putting his life on the line every week and he can't make a decent wage!" That kind of nonsense doesn't really win people over. Whether or not you think Owens should be paid more, it's pretty idiotic to describe his salary as not a decent wage.

I'm with Ima, only I'll get my kneecaps smashed for $3.5 million. Let the bidding war begin!

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 4:36pm

Richie (#135 )--

It was worse than you think. The Patriots drafted Brady in the supplemental-picks portion of the sixth round in 2000, meaning they had passed on him six times (as did every other team that hadn't traded away picks). They were debating drafting either Brady or Tim Rattay (!) with that pick. They chose wisely, or got lucky, depending on how you look at it (nfl.com's 2000 draft page linked).

Amusing contrast: Terrell Owens was drafted in the third round in 1996, after legendary wideouts like Alex van Dyke, Bryan Still, and Derrick Mayes. Not quite as bad as going 130+ picks after Giovanni Carmazzi, but still worth noting that a great deal of luck and wishful thinking goes into the draft.

by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 5:10pm

Thanks, Star. It was fun revisiting what I've always thought was one of the nuttiest drafts of all time.

I forgot that Bowen was taken right before Brady. For those who don't know him, Matt Bowen is one of the smartest, nicest guys in the NFL.

He also was a journalism major, so look out world when he gives up the game to pursue sports reporting. He'll be great.

It's also fun flipping through to see the Colts' picks. They always find great value in offensive players, even in the lowest rounds. And they wouldn't know how to judge a LB if they had to.

I love to flip through the Cards' picks through the years. And the Saints. Ahhhhhh, schadenfreude.

by Ron Mexico (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 5:16pm

Don't forget Atlanta.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 5:33pm

Richie, you may have missed my point. Yes, if Peyton Manning starts playing like Fiedler, he ain't going to get any more guaranteed money. If he continues his current production, he might (I am not intimately familiar with his contract). Culpepper, because his play has been so good the past two years, just renegotiated his deal, and recieved more guaranteed money (reported as anywhere between 2.5 million to 7.5 million), and I would be surprised if he doesn't get more next season, if his play is anything close to last year's. Also, I can't remember who questioned his accuracy above, but the guy did have almost a 70% completion rate for the past two years, and he isn't in a west coast, short pass, system.

Finally, if one wanted to reduce the injury rate to recievers, go back to the old coverage rules. Receivers will have to fight more contact, but it will be less high collison contact, with fewer serious injuries. Of course, this may mean that many fewer receivers will be catching 80-plus balls a year, which will reduce the value, and subsequent contracts of receivers. It is hard to change the rules to protect receivers, short of going to flag football, without decreasing the propensity to pass, and increase the propensity to run, which means receivers will be paid less. It would be like trying to decrease the injury risk to bull riders by slipping the bulls some tranquilizers; the riders may not get hurt, but the product would be changed so fundamentally, in the entertainment sense, that the bull riders wouldn't get paid as well.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 08/16/2005 - 5:42pm

One final remark, Owens is to a large degree in this situation because he is such a jerk. There is a reason that so few teams sought a trade for him last year, and it directly relates to his behavior towards teamates and coaches. This is why his behavior over the past week has reduced his leverage. The Eagles are now trying to lay the legal foundation to suspend him without pay, and if Owens continues on his current course, he just may give them enough concrete to pull it off. If they do, Owens will never recoup the money he loses this season, no matter what his free-agent status is in the future.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 10:00am

#139 et al

Maybe it was blind luck why the Patriots drafted Brady, but I think that's an oversimplification.

I'm sure each GM, with a few instances aside (Jeff Lageman) draws up a value of each potential draftee. Belichick/Pioli have proven themselves very adept at drafting players at the slot where their receiving optimum value for that pick, which is why you often see the Patriots trade down, then up, to draft someone they really like (Eugene Wilson being the best example). Brady may have been the Patriots favorite player in the draft, but knew he was very unlikely to go in the first five rounds. So they get other players they like, and hope he'll be there for the next pick. I'm sure many GMs thought about taking Brady that round, then miscalculated that he would be available when their next pick was up, wheras the Pats figured he wouldn't be around at their next pick. I mean, I might think Samie Parker is going to have a monster year in 2005, but that doesn't mean I'm going to draft him in the first round of my fantasy draft.

See, isn't my oversimplification at least as likely as "they lucked into him?"

by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 2:00pm

dryheat, I agree to a point. I still say New England had no clue he'd be this good. If so, they wouldn't have waited so long to take him. There's no way their assessment could be HOF QB, and assume that every other team thought he was no better than a 6th round pick. Especially 5 years ago, I don't think the Patriots thought they were that much smarter than everybody else.

Yes, they may have seen something in him that others didn't, but no way they thought he was this good.

by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 2:02pm

In Brady's rookie year, a 5-11 season for New England, Brady attempted 3 passes. John Friesz had 21 attempts. If New England thought that Brady was anything, surely they would have given him a few more plays to finish out the year.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 2:36pm

My understanding for why the Patriots drafted Brady has always been that Bellicheck is friends with the Head Coach at Michigan. The head coach, who had recruited Brady and seend him practice, told Bellicheck he might be pretty good someday, and Bellicheck, trusting his friend's judgment, figured he's worth a 6th round pick. Then Bellicheck notices that this QB he drafte in the 6th round is the first person in the facility every day and the last one to leave. Still, he's an unknown rookie, so he stays nailed to the bench for all of 2000. Then in training camp in 2001, he's still the first guy in and the last guy out. Bellicheck starts paying more attention to him, and notices he's pretty good. Then Bellicheck bumps him up to #2 on the depth chart, Bledsoe gets creamed by Mo Lewis, and you know the rest.

by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 3:13pm

This is one area where the interests of the team and the players are completely at cross-purposes: the teams would prefer to pay more to players who are more likely to be there next year, while the players at greater risk of injury would prefer more money now. This is the source of much contract wrangling, and the is no CBA or other mechanism that will reconcile these positions. The best anyone will get is an uncomfortable compromise.

The answer is to socialize the costs. Take 10% of each player's salary (and make that tax-deductible) off the top, put it into a central fund. Then use that to pay injured players.

by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 4:22pm

I still say New England had no clue he’d be this good. If so, they wouldn’t have waited so long to take him.
If I recall, Belichick and/or Pioli has mentioned that if they thought that Brady would be this good, they would have taken him earlier, so I don't think anyone can claim the Patriots knew he was a lock for this performance level.

But, "no clue" is an overly simplistic characterization of their decision process as well. What I'm guessing the Pats saw was a player that was fundamentally sound, decent value at the position, with an indeterminate amount of upside. That is, they saw no obvious thing that would limit his performance in their offensive system: mechanical flaws, injury problems, or patterns of bad decisions. That's more subtle than the "lucky" descriptions some are making. It's also different than the decision process behind picking somebody like Tully Banta-Cain, who was more of a crapshoot. Notice I say "their offensive system," which requires that a QB's arm strength be sufficient, not great, and that his mobility be "pocket mobility" and not scrambling or running mobility. Now, were the Pats fortunate that he turned out to be on the far end of the scale? Damn right! But their good evaluation and decision process put them in a position to be fortunate.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 4:46pm

Obviously, nobody KNEW Brady was going to be this good. But let's revisit a few things.

1) Brady was deemed good enough to warrant keeping four quarterbacks his rookie year. Now, the Pats weren't exactly loaded with talent, but how many times have you seen four quarterbacks make the opening day roster? The coaching staff definitely saw something in him as far back as his rookie training camp.

2) If Brady as a rookie had the physical strength he did now, maybe he would have played more his rookie year at the expense of Friesz or Michael Bishop. I'm not going to look up his combine numbers, but he was probably 175 pounds and put up 2 reps. Even if his ability to read defenses was outstanding (and it certainly wasn't), I don't think he had the strength to play professional football.

3) Adding to #139, another attribute for the quarterback, the most important, actually, is the desire to improve. Brady wasn't a HOF quarterback then. But he's made himself one now. This work ethic probably came out in the interview part of the combine, and it weighed very heavy with Belichick and Co. He's still winning team awards for dedication to the offseason program.

by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 7:39pm

Before this devolves -- as it always does -- into a meaningless debate over Brady v. Manning, might I paraphrase why TO and many other players have a beef with their teams and why, perhaps, he felt a moment of civil disobedience was in order?

The players appreciate the gains they've made through free agency since 1993. But the CBA still bars them from achieving their market value because they can't really negotiate freely for greater reward.

The salary cap limits their potential earnings, of course, but so do other factors many people never consider.

Players have to accrue seasons to reach minimum salaries, something that's difficult to do in a workplace with a mind-boggling injury rate.

Even if they reach a point of prominence in their craft, they can have their earnings unnaturally cut by "franchise" or "transitions" tags.

The college draft further restricts their ability to play within markets that would boost their ancillary earnings. Green Bay fans are rabid. But they aren't so tony as those in Boston.

There is a secondary salary cap, called the "rookie cap" that deadens the earnings of players fresh to the league, especially those who prove their great value despite being taken in the later rounds of the draft.

Someone asked earlier if there was, indeed, something of a revolt within the ranks of the pros, especially the stars in the league, over guaranteed contracts.

In a sense, there is. Currently, about 3 percent of the entire league is now represented by Drew Rosenhaus. This is quite a hike in his popularity. He's so popular now because he advocates, in some instances, the strategy of players standing up to the franchises and the tax-exempt league over the very grievances I mentioned above.

This isn't simply legalistic or fiscal. The players would argue that there is a moral component to their fight, one that they say involves the dignity that comes with making what you're worth, for as long as two parties agree, on terms that are equally binding to both.

The NFLPA argues that if the players truly want to ditch guaranteed contracts, this will have to be hashed out in negotiations. The owners, NFLPA says, would want something back.

Would players be willing to give up, say, free agency? Or extend the length of service a club could demand before moving on? Or concede benefits, such as the NFLPA's wonderful pension system?

Currently, NFL says the players get about 60 percent of the DGR. Would they be willing to settle for, say, 50 percent, but the contracts were guaranteed?

Just remember everyone's worst fears. If the owners can't agree among themselves how to allocate to each other and their workers a growing pool of locally-based revenues, a CBA won't be done. That means 2007 is an uncapped year.

The NFLPA doesn't want to decertify itself, even though that would make every player a free agent in an unregulated, brutally capitalistic marketplace.

The coterie of NFL fat cats doesn't want to really have a free market either because they don't trust their own ability to evaluate, acquire or retain elite talent (see also NHL).

Just imagine, however, a landscape without the CBA. No draft. No barriers to earning based on your years in the league. Teams bearing the insurance costs of guaranteeing contracts. Cats and dogs, living in sin.


by MDS (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 7:49pm

Carl, keep in mind that a sports league by definition can't be a free market. The whole point of a league is that separate organizations make certain agreements with each other. McDonald's wants Wendy's to go out of business, but the Packers don't want the Lions to go out of business.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 8:29pm


I tried that argument already before on Carl. I don't think it worked very well. :)

by Kansas City Royals (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 10:29pm

Totally free market or not, those agreements can lead to games that are nasty, brutish, and looong.

by Jim A (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 10:58pm

I don't think Carl ever suggested that the Packers want the Lions to go out of business.

Evidence from all major sports over thirty years suggests that a decrease in player movement restrictions and closer to market value salaries has not harmed pro sports, but has actually helped generate growth and prosperity by leaps and bounds.

The players and owners shouldn't get so bogged down in trying to split the pie. They should also be trying to grow the pie. Competition breeds a better product, even in pro football.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 11:25pm

Not the second argument, Jim. The first one. You can't really think of players as a free market, because the teams don't exist in a vacuum. In a normal free market, if NBC, ABC, and CBS are bidding for, say (to stay on topic) NFL rights, highest bidder wins, because NBC, ABC, and CBS are perfectly happy to put each other out of business.

This isn't true in the NFL, as MDS stated, so thinking of players as a free market is a bit dangerous. Free markets are good, because they allow the market to decide what the value of a commodity is. But it also tends to consolidate businesses, which is not good for a sports league.

Granted, the risk seems a bit academic as all NFL teams are making money hand over fist. However, the idea of a complete free market being a paradise for players is a little crazy as well, because there are many players benefiting from a restricted market (league minimum and all that) as well.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 11:41pm

Competition breeds a better product, even in pro football.

Simply put, I just don't believe that's rigorously true. Hockey had free market salaries, and it led to the Columbus Blue Jackets having a ridiculous disparity between the rest of the league and itself (something like ~$30M vs $80M), and sagging ticket sales in what should be a thriving market, considering the size of the city, because they simply can't compete.

I also cannot figure out why people challenge a salary cap in a league. It's ideal - it creates a level playing field which allows a free market to exist.

Now, you could ditch the draft if you really wanted to, but I don't really see the point. The draft also serves a bit to prevent "weeding out" of teams due to social, rather than financial reasons ("who would want to play there").

They should also be trying to grow the pie.

They are trying to grow the pie. The only way they can do that is by expanding the league.

by Jim A (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 9:11am

I also cannot figure out why people challenge a salary cap in a league.

Because it clearly transfers money from the players to the owners.

it creates a level playing field

What evidence is there that it--and not revenue sharing or free agency--has done so in the NFL? The salary cap certainly hasn't increased parity in the NBA.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 10:14am

One can't really talk about the NBA's salary cap, though, because it is a soft cap with so many loopholes and exceptions that few teams are ever under it.

The salary cap for 2004-2005 was $43.9 million. However, the average team payroll during that year was $56.3 million - the average team was $13 million over the cap, and only six teams had payrolls under the cap, and the disparity between the lowest payroll and the highest was more than 4-to-1.

I think a better test would be to see what happens within 5 years or so in the NHL, with its new hard cap, to see if that tends to bring greater parity to the league. Revenue sharing and luxury taxes haven't exactly brought Major League Baseball to the height of parity, and the NBA's soft cap with luxury tax hasn't done it either. And all of those sports have free agency, which has for the most part led to the rich getting richer.

Circumstantially, it seems that given that other leagues do those other things you mention, but the NFL is the only one with a hard cap, one can at least opine that the NFL's hard cap has a great deal to do with the parity the league enjoys.


by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 10:52am

Because it clearly transfers money from the players to the owners.

No matter what, every team has a salary cap - their own budget. A league wide salary cap just evens those out. Stating that it clearly transfers money to the owners is stupid - the salary cap is a fixed percentage of what the NFL makes.

I'm not going to mention the earnings that aren't included, as that's an implementation issue, not a fundamental one. Suppose Team X earns $400M/year, and Team Y earns $100M/year, and the two are only allowed to spend $80M/year on players. What's your problem with this? That Team X doesn't spend $380M on players? That's a problem with the shared revenue, not the cap.

What evidence is there that it–and not revenue sharing or free agency–has done so in the NFL? The salary cap certainly hasn’t increased parity in the NBA.

Bit of bad wording on my part. When I said "level playing field" I didn't mean parity on the field. There's a bunch of things which can affect that. What I meant was parity in the bargaining process. It doesn't even quite do that, though, as Carl and others have pointed out, but it does start to do that.

An ideal, hard salary cap (no prorating, cap overhang, etc.) would create a free market that a sports league can survive in, because it prevents a team from using an economic advantage to increase its economic advantage.

Saying "revenue sharing is the real key!" is a little disingenuous, because revenue sharing and a salary cap are pretty much the same thing. Take it to complete idiocy, where all revenue is shared, so each team has exactly the same amount of money available each year.

Would a salary cap be a problem in this case? No, of course not. Each team already has a salary cap - 1/32 of the total earnings of the league.

The salary cap isn't the issue that you have. It's the amount of shared revenue - or in other words, the size of the salary cap. You're arguing the owners make too much money, and the players too little. Since the salary cap is a fixed percentage of shared profits, all you're claiming is that that percentage (or the amount that's included in "shared profits") is wrong. I won't argue that. But don't try to claim a salary cap is the problem. It's not. It's just an up front, public budget. Nothing more.

by Athelas (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 10:53am

In re: drafting Brady
I asked Mike Reiss about this, and he said it was the late Dick Rheibein,quarterbacks coach, who recommended Brady.
He seemed to have a big 'upside' (one of those things Belichick has talked about--does a player look as good as he's going to get? or does he have the attitude to do the work that will make him get better? BTW, Bledsoe did not seem to have it)
Also, one of the big changes from his first to his second year was getter bigger & stronger through hard work in the Pats s&c program.
Also, Reiss' Pieces will be back at the Globe, and he will be taking over the Mailbag from Cafardo. And anyone who doesn't think Cafardo & Borges had an agenda (Borges=completely over-the-top, Carfado's probably more subconcious)just hasn't been paying attention!

by Carl (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 11:33am

Whenever I hear the dire predictions that would befall the august NFL in the event of an uncapped year, I think back the the 70 years the NFL and AFL managed to exist without a cap, trusting the owners of the franchises to do what business people do around the world, which is manage a budget.

I always think people miss the point of team ownership. For those of us long experienced with tracking NHL and NFL finances, the first thing one notices is that "bottom line" is practically meaningless in the business model of sports. The motivation for the owners -- aside from playboy glee in owning a macho team -- is escalating franchise value.

In sum, there's always another sucker playboy who will pony up big cash to either buy your team or subsidize everyone else with a high franchise fee. That they pass on this sort of business model to city councils and statehouses nationwide to build their stadia is another matter.

The genius -- and luck -- of the NFL has been revenue sharing among owners, Pat. That's the great equalizer. The problem, as the latest CBA negotiations have exposed, is that some owners make a lot more money in certain markets than others. This has a lot to do with the stadia they occupy and the revenue streams that aren't DGR that feed into it.

Not only do the players have a beef with that, but other teams do, too.

As for "parity," I could list the past five winners of the World Series, NBA Finals, Lord Stanley's Cup and Super Bowl for you to draw your own conclusions.

Suffice it to say, however, that revenue sharing among owners, in my opinion, has done more to equalize performance than anything else, but all the money in the world won't make the Redskins or the Bengals a better judge or talent than the Colts or Patriots.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 12:23pm

I would agree that it's likely that without a cap, the owners of individual franchises would, indeed, manage budgets.

What would be different is that the budgets per team would vary, leading to, well, baseball.

I would say that listing the champions on a per-year basis is a bad way of talking "parity". Winning the championship takes talent, but it also takes a lot of luck (Arizona beat the Yankees when Rivera blows the save in game 7, Boston wins after coming back from 0-3 in LCS, Giants blow 5 run lead in Series, etc.). I would say looking at relative win-loss (or points, for the NHL) records vs. payroll would be a better method of doing so (although there are always teams that fail - the Knicks being the ultimate example at the moment, with years and years of futility, yet by far the highest payroll in the NBA.

Now I agree that what needs to change is how DGR is determined, and I think (as most, but not all, the owners seem to) that much revenue that currently isn't shared, should be. However, to ensure that there's no disincentive for an owner to try and maximize that revenue, my opinion would be only the percentage that is designated for players, should be shared (32 ways).

If an owner finds a way to make an extra $100 million of what now would be considered "unshared" (due, perhaps, to suckering their city into a free stadium or something), if the CBA states that players get 60% (or whatever) of DGR, then 60% of that $100 million is shared between the teams (and thus directly affects the salary cap), and the owner in question can keep the other $40 million.

I think that players would agree to such a thing, but the owners that currently have the sweetest deals of course are reluctant, stating that it isn't their fault Team X couldn't get a free stadium. While perhaps true, it's working against a big-picture view of the league as an entity.


by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 12:38pm

Wow, this'll be long.


I absolutely agree with you, except for your first point. Sure, the NFL existed for 70 years without a salary cap. But the AAFC didn't - it merged with the NFL because escalating player salaries were killing teams. And the AFL merged with the NFL partially because the two leagues were starting to harm each other with the player bidding war.

The thing that I most agree with you on is that revenue sharing is the big key to parity in the NFL. The thing that I've been trying to point out is that a salary cap is a natural result of revenue sharing. If you had fully shared revenues, and didn't allow teams to carry debt loads, you'd have an instant salary cap by design.

In some sense, the current situation has the "competitive balance" of a fully-shared revenue system but still retains the economic benefits for larger-market teams of an unshared revenue system. Now, you could argue against that compromise, and say it's unfair for certain teams to make money that doesn't go into the players - but that's the equivalent of saying that you want more shared revenue, not that you don't want a cap. The salary cap is just a way to make sure that owners don't overreach.

I think I'm starting to realize that we're talking past each other. I think the thing you're arguing against in terms of the salary cap is that one team can make $400M, one team can make $100M, and yet they both only spend $80M on players thanks to the cap. So that the one team is making huge amounts of money that the players never see, and blame that on the cap.

I agree with that, but I don't blame the cap - I think it's silly that one team makes $400M and the other makes $100M. The only way one team should make more than another one is if it's something unrelated to the league - and then, even then, a portion of it should be fed back in because it's all due to the league in some sense. So I blame it on the revenue sharing system.

In a perfect world, where each team makes the same amount, a salary cap is just a "no debt" policy - you're forcing each team to operate in the black.

So a cap is probably pretty minor. You could do without it - however, you'd have to fix the revenue sharing system first. A salary cap in the current structure is just a way of gaining the stability of a fully-shared revenue system while dealing with the reality that a fully-shared revenue system is just not going to happen.

by Jim A (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 1:00pm

McDonald's doesn't necessarily want to drive Wendy's out of business because 1) it's illegal under antitrust law, and 2) the competition fosters growth and innovation, which benefits the entire industry. I eat at McDonald's more now that they have halfway decent premium salads. The only reason they offer them is because Wendy's showed them you could sell fresh foods in a fast food restaurant.

Another example is AT&T. They became much more profitable after the phone industry was deregulated even though their market share decreased significantly. Of course, it was better for consumers as well.

The NFL has really generated an explosion of interest in their product over the last thirty years, and I don't think it's simply tied to expansion or the salary cap.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 1:01pm

I would agree that it’s likely that without a cap, the owners of individual franchises would, indeed, manage budgets.

I'm not so sure. A salary cap is a budget, and some teams don't manage that well.

Just like there are people who borrow, and borrow, and borrow, hoping to magically make things better, there will be teams that do the same. MLB, for instance, has several teams that carry really high debt loads, and the bond rating on those debts, if they were issued by the teams themselves, would likely be junk bonds.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 1:15pm

McDonald’s doesn’t necessarily want to drive Wendy’s out of business because 1) it’s illegal under antitrust law

No it's not. It's illegal for them to unfairly compete to drive them out of business, such as price gouging or other illegal practices. It's perfectly legal for them to produce a better product and drive them out of business legally.

2) the competition fosters growth and innovation, which benefits the entire industry.

Free markets lead to company consolidation so long as economies of scale hold. In practice, this happens in almost every industry. This is why we have McDonald's and Wendy's, or Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

Whether or not it happens in football depends on whether or not you believe that perpetually winning teams make more money than perpetually losing teams (and that long term winning percentage is correlated with player salary) - in short, whether or not you believe that economies of scale exist in football.

by Carl (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 6:02pm

Pat, I'm sure you said that with your tongue firmly implanted in your cheek.

You and I both know that there is no way our favorite 501C6 corporation is going to start distributing shared broadcast, merchandise and licensing dollars unequally.

Every team gets their fair share, just as everyone contributes to the pot. Because TV is the 800 lb. gorilla, there really is not much else to consider.

I'm not sure the major market teams -- Dallas, NY Giants/Jets, Chicago, Redskins, Boston, et al -- could put another team out of business if they wanted to, fairly or unfairly, because so much of the revenue is shared.

What I tried to point out was that it is this very dispute over DGR that's threatening to make 2007 an uncapped year. And it's not being driven by the players or their union!

Ironically, it's the owners who can't agree on what should or shouldn't be passed amongst each other. Upshaw has kept reminding them that, ahem, if they don't work something out, they're going to have to deal with a largely deregulated compensation system.

But if I'm a star athlete, I'm thinking to myself, "Gene, you're skirting the issue. We don't want Pittsburgh to share their newfound revenue streams with Green Bay. We want them to share it with us, the players in that local market!"

People forget that the original DGR share for players way back when was proposed at 50 percent. If I'm a star athlete, and I know that Snyder in DC is more than willing to bid up the price for talent because of his great seating revenues on top of the NFL DGR base, why wouldn't I consider going there?

I just don't think the huge market teams would be all that much more successful. Why not? Because at most positions, there is fungibility. Snyder could spend a billion dollars on a kicker, punter, TE or most DBs and it wouldn't make a difference. They're not that much better than the mean.

For certain key positions, such as QB or elite WR or outstanding O-lineman, they could grab a few of these and start building a great franchise.

In a very real sense, they already do that. Because their bottom line is better, big market teams routinely outbid for talent because they can offer more upfront whereas their smaller cousins must spread it out over many years in longer LTBE contracts (leading to the often regretted "dead money" curse).

But they've had the chance to do that already and have failed over the last decade. Why would we believe the Redskins would turn into a savvy manager of talent just because the front office can throw a lot of money at it?

I'll give you three reasons why I doubt the DC braintrust, despite their riches, would outperform Indianapolis, Green Bay or St. Louis: NY Rangers, NY Knicks, NY Mets.

Would the Oakland Raiders really be that much less successful than the Oakland As? Do you really imagine the NY Giants are going to stockpile a team o' studs while their brothers in Tampa Bay scramble for the dregs?

I don't think so. As a fan of the game, I would love to see an uncapped year just so that I could admire the creativity of Polian and others as they set about really implementing moneyball.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 6:36pm

You and I both know that there is no way our favorite 501C6 corporation is going to start distributing shared broadcast, merchandise and licensing dollars unequally.

They don't have to. If the new streams of revenue eventually far outpace the shared streams of revenue, then the shared ones might as well not exist. Then you get back to the same problem as previously.

Besides, it was just mentioned as an example.

But if I’m a star athlete, I’m thinking to myself, “Gene, you’re skirting the issue. We don’t want Pittsburgh to share their newfound revenue streams with Green Bay. We want them to share it with us, the players in that local market!�

Wait - you just said you didn't think the major market teams couldn't put the smaller market teams out of business because so much of the revenue is shared. If the revenue streams aren't shared, that's not true anymore.

I just don’t think the huge market teams would be all that much more successful. Why not?

You're forgetting that the large market teams would set the market price. Who cares if the guy's better or not? God, Ryan Leaf wasn't worth the money he was paid. That's not the important thing. The important thing is that he thinks he's worth $50M/year now, so that's what he'll demand - which makes things incredibly hard for small market teams, some of which will probably dip a bit into debt to sign players (which happened all the time in the NHL).

Plus, I don't really agree that you couldn't be better if you spent more, because your depth positions would suddenly become so much better. It's easy to imagine paying tons of money for an extremely good backup QB. The only reason it isn't done now is because of the cost. While that doesn't make your team better when they're healthy, it makes them better down the stretch - everyone gets hurt at some point.

Why would we believe the Redskins would turn into a savvy manager of talent just because the front office can throw a lot of money at it?

I don't. There are rich bad teams in baseball, too. But over time these things even themselves out, and money tends to win out. Idiots have managed the Yankees, too. While the salary cap allows you to overspend, it doesn't allow you to do it forever. Without it, you sure as heck can.

I could admire the creativity of Polian and others as they set about really implementing moneyball.

Why is it any less creative to force Polian to work within the same framework as everyone else? I don't get this. Methinks someone is just a little upset that the Colts don't have enough cap room to buy a defense. :)

by Carl (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 7:23pm

"They don’t have to. If the new streams of revenue eventually far outpace the shared streams of revenue, then the shared ones might as well not exist. Then you get back to the same problem as previously."

But TV, et al, will still be the dominant revenue source, so there will always be a defacto fat pool of cash from which all teams can draw.

"You’re forgetting that the large market teams would set the market price."

But they wouldn't necessarily set the bar for talent acquisition, training and retaining. They could do that now, and they don't.

The NHL is a good example. The NY Rangers certainly did set the top price for off-the-shelf free agent talent in hockey. But that didn't stop the Tampa Bay Lightning (!) from winning it all (over Calgary!).

By the way, our analysis showed the single best determinant for success in the NHL isn't free agency acquisition. It's draft savvy. The best at selecting minor league and college talent over the last 12 years was NJ, and Detroit was up there, too.

Just because teams such as NY and Dallas could spend a great deal of money on free agents didn't mean they spent wisely.

As I mentioned before, the large market teams in the NFL already have begun establishing a defacto pecking order because they can risk more upfront money on shorter contracts. That they haven't done a particularly good job of managing these newfound treasures in Cleveland, DC or Miami (unlike New England or Pittsburgh) doesn't surprise me.

There's no salary cap on hiring outside talent to manage your cap, coach the team or scout prospective draftees, right?

"It’s easy to imagine paying tons of money for an extremely good backup QB. The only reason it isn’t done now is because of the cost."

And free agency. Whereas it's spooky to even think of a Niners team that boasted Montana, Young and Bono, it's important to remember that any of the understudies would have bolted if they could have (just as Young willingly left the Bucs to hold a clipboard in SF).

After free agency entered the picture, they did. No matter the market incentive, it would be doubtful that a kid who thought he was a future HOFer would willingly sit behind Peyton Manning for a few years.

Besides, in an uncapped, draftless NFL, it wouldn't matter who picked you! You could change every year, unless your contract held you to a particular place, an agreement more freely confected by BOTH parties!

"But over time these things even themselves out, and money tends to win out."

Tell that to the poor schmoe who roots for the Mets, Knicks and Rangers!

And, besides, just because you have the money doesn't mean you will spend it to put out a great product. There is a minimum cap in the NFL, too. But that doesn't stop the same suspects every year from putting out a crappy product despite what they spend on talent, or don't spend. The owners rake it in, regardless.

I have proposed in other places a system more akin to UK football. Put out another bottom dweller, Miami? Fine. You can play in the almost-premier league next year. You can play the Rhine Fire instead of the NY Jets. Oh, yeah, and you miss out on the guaranteed TV revenues, etc., in the American market.

Think that might make some owners commit to excellence?

As for the Colts, I'm a big fan of Polian (the NFL's answer to Moneyball, but no one knows it). I'm not so sold on any given team in the league.

by Carl (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 7:37pm

Since I haven't considered FA Premier regression or promotion in two years, I humbly submit that if I were czar of the NFL, this year we wouldn't have to suffer through another season of SF or Cleveland.

The winners of my "Coca Cola Championship" would be the Berlin Thunder and the Franfurt Galaxy. They would be made up of European All-Stars and free agents from America. They would PLAY THEIR GAMES IN THE SAME STADIA AS THE DEPARTING SCHLUBS, so no fan would go without football.

In an uncapped world, players could freely defect from SF or Cleveland, unless their contracts stipulated otherwise.

I can dream, right? Eric McCoo rushing for the SF Thunder! Would Rohan Davey really be any worse than whatever QB the Browns would have started this year?

Go Cleveland Galaxy!

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 8:06pm

But TV, et al, will still be the dominant revenue source, so there will always be a defacto fat pool of cash from which all teams can draw.

I meant that the other streams of revenue might become larger than the TV revenue streams, which is certainly not inconceivable.

Just because teams such as NY and Dallas could spend a great deal of money on free agents didn’t mean they spent wisely.

Yes. That's what I said. But there is a correlation between salary and winning percentage. If your team's problem is that you've got a stupid GM, you can fix that. If your team's problem is that you're poor, you can't fix that.

And free agency. Whereas it’s spooky to even think of a Niners team that boasted Montana, Young and Bono, it’s important to remember that any of the understudies would have bolted if they could have (just as Young willingly left the Bucs to hold a clipboard in SF).

Yes. But they'd bolt to another team that could afford them. You're creating the haves and have nots - and the have nots will struggle, and go out, and the league will be the lesser for it.

Tell that to the poor schmoe who roots for the Mets, Knicks and Rangers!

He at least can have hope for the future.

I have proposed in other places a system more akin to UK football.

Oh, God, that's just awful!

I cannot for the life of me understand relegation. And holding up UK football in my mind is not a terrific example. I can't understand why it's so popular. I don't enjoy rooting for a perennial loser.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 8:08pm

I humbly submit that if I were czar of the NFL, this year we wouldn’t have to suffer through another season of SF or Cleveland.

Yah. Instead, you'd have to suffer through decades of the Cincinnati Bengals.

by Richie (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 9:29pm

Carl - the NFL is tax exempt??? This is the first I've heard of that.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Thu, 08/18/2005 - 10:36pm

the NFL is tax exempt???
The corporation which constitutes the league and its offices, is tax exempt. That's because it's technically a not-for-profit company. The league itself doesn't make a profit -- whatever revenue it makes from logos, licensing, DVDs, and what-not gets parcelled out to the teams, after salaries and expenses get paid.

The 32 teams are all for-profit companies and taxable as such.

by Fast Eddy (not verified) :: Fri, 08/19/2005 - 9:09am

Great and very intelligent thread. I learned more than I wanted to! Best NFL site around.

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 08/19/2005 - 12:11pm

The reason the 501C6 designation is important, Rich, is that it allows the NFL office to serve functions usually reserved to the private sector without paying taxes.

Technically, the tax exemption was intended not for sports leagues but for chambers of commerce in towns across America or trade groups that advocate for common policy concerns in statehouses and DC.

In recent years, the NFL has created a revolving fund for stadia construction, granted large interest-free loans to officers of the nonprofit and executed deals that, had they been performed by typical trade groups, would have run afoul of federal anti-trust laws.

Whenever Congress wants something (like heightened steroids testing and enforcement), they start mumbling "tax exemption," which is usually enough to get what they want.

Not that the courts, at various levels, have been all that kind to the NFL's interpretation of its tax-free, benign trust self-definition. In recent years lawsuits initiated by Hamilton County (Ohio), Maurice Clarett and the LA/Oakland Raiders have been more successful than not at puncturing the league's status.

No one really wants to relitigate the 1962 AFL decision. The feeling is that the Supreme Court today would rule that the NFL does, indeed, restrict competition in a monopolistic way and that the feds would have recourse to break the current NFL structure into something else, if Congress so desired.

Congress is a funny place. One never knows.

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 08/19/2005 - 12:29pm

Wow, the NFL has the best lobby in the world. They have a lovely anti-trust exemption, tax-exemption status, and when they show up for steriods hearings, congressmen fall over eachother in declaring thier love for football.

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 08/19/2005 - 12:48pm

B, the NFL actually does hire lobbyists to advocate for league interests in DC. Tax deductible, of course.

One of the most interesting things is to watch the NFL's lobbyists go to state capitals, with owners in tow, talking tough about the scourge of Workers' Compensation laws. Yeah, we wouldn't want that crippled linebacker picking up $4,000 per year to recompensate for the loss of all feeling in his feet.

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 08/19/2005 - 12:50pm

To be fair, however, one must remember that NFLPA (affliated with the AFL-CIO) also hires lobbyists and is actually located in DC.

Whenever they want something, they can always pull a HOFer from their Rolodex and trot him off to glad-hand with a bunch of star-struck politicians and the people who really do their work, the staffers.