Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

28 Jul 2005

Ward Turns Down Steelers' Offer

Even though training camps starts Sunday, it's probably too early to start worrying about the Steelers re-signing Hines Ward before the regular season gets underway. Still, Ward has already turned down one offer from the Steelers, and maybe for good reason. Pittsburgh's offer would have made Ward the highest paid player in their history, but would put him "among a tier of receivers just below several of the highest paid in the league."

Given that Ward has been to four straight Pro Bowls, he probably deserves a little more than that. On the bright side however, Ward was offered a signing bonus that would have surpassed the $8.1 million bonus Kordell Stewart received in 1999. Sweet.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 28 Jul 2005

24 comments, Last at 01 Aug 2005, 6:23pm by Countertorque


by Kris (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 11:30am

Might the Steelers be low-balling him because they fear that the bulk of a new contract will be when Ward is past his prime?

Anyway, as a Steeler fan, I hope this deal gets done soon, and if it means the Steelers overpay him slightly, so be it. Ward has earned it, by playing his guts out long after he could have whined and moaned about a new deal. He's been the ultimate team player, and has been well underpaid every year since 2001! This new contract should, in essence, reimburse Ward for that effort.

No organization can "overpay" more than a handful of players, but it would be a big mistake, and a bad message to send the rest of the team, if the Steelers get all miserly with a guy who's given his all without complaint or bullshit. Re-signing Ward would be an example to other players that if you play your ass off, don't bitch, the team will take care of you in a fair way. If I were Ward, I'd be kind of pissed.

I do have a slight "on the other hand" feeling about this, though: I do think the Steelers, according to this article, have Ward pegged about right, and I don't think he's as good as the elite Harrison/Holt/Moss/Owens. And while I personally think Ward is going to be productive until he's well into his 30s, this is no sure thing. With his physical style of play, who knows how long he'll last. And finally, it wouldn't be stupid for the Steelers to think that if Ward walks, that's a lot of money that could be spent on free agents or re-signings -- particularly important as we have some young assets who are going to be expensive as hell in the next few years (Polamalu, Hampton, Big Ben, Faneca).

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 11:50am

What Kris said.

by gabe (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 1:13pm

Little Ben has just completed his rookie season. He is signed for many years to come....wards contract has no impact whatsoever on Big "Turnover" Benny. Ward is an elite football player. Not a receiver! A FOOTBALL player. He does way more than just catch balls. The guy is probably the best blocking receiver in the league. He also can throw the pigskin and do reverses and other little things....And this comes from a Pats fan who hates everything the steelers stand for.

by Countertorque (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 1:25pm

When deciding where Ward ranks among present day receivers, one should keep in mind that he is the guy who made Kordell Stewart look like a quarterback.

P.S. Hate everything that the Steelers stand for? Like winning football games? What other causes do you think they represent? I don't think they've been giving any money to Al Qaida.

by Dan L (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 1:48pm

"P.S. Hate everything that the Steelers stand for? Like winning football games? What other causes do you think they represent? I don’t think they’ve been giving any money to Al Qaida. "

Oh, that's just gabe. He'll flame anything. I'm not sure how playing reciever normally precludes one from being a football player, but it's good to know that Ward is an exception to this curious rule.

by Existence (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 1:50pm

Countertorque, that's easy. Many Pats fans, presented with an historically good team, have chosen to enjoy it not by admiring their own team and relishing three Super Bowls, but rather by mocking every team that doesn't beat them as hapless chokers.

by Daniel Warehall (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 1:51pm

Dan L,

Are you saying that you didn't know that the Steelers secretly are for eating babies and shooting puppies?

by Israel (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 2:00pm

Amen to everything #1 says, with one other thought. He must show up in camp on time and ciontinue to play his role as team leader, no matter the contarct talks. See Prisuta at http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/tribune-review/sports/steelerslive/s_357...

by Adam H (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 3:49pm

This just in: Ward for Owens is gonna happen! The Eagles are gonna give him a contract with numbers similar to the Steelers offer plus an endorsment deal ala Troy Brown. The only catch, he has to change his name to "Lincoln Financial Ward".

by Israel (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 4:12pm

Cute, #9.

That said, the Rooneys don't touch guys with Owens-type personalities.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 4:19pm

That said, the Rooneys don’t touch guys with Owens-type personalities.
Nope. They let their linebackers do that instead.

by Stiller Fan in Cle (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 4:50pm

The Steelers better get Ward back, they won't be able to lose the AFC championship without him...

Compare Ward with one of the top WR's who was a free agent this offseason:


G GS No Yards Avg Lg TD 20+ 40+ FD
16 0 15 246 16.4 45 0 3 1 12
16 14 61 638 10.5 42 7 6 1 31
16 15 48 672 14.0 77 4 8 2 31
16 16 94 1003 10.7 34 4 13 0 52
16 16 112 1329 11.9 72 12 19 2 66
16 16 95 1163 12.2 50 10 18 2 60
16 16 80 1004 12.6 58 4 15 2 52

Mysterious Free Agent:

G GS No Yards Avg Lg TD 20+ 40+ FD
16 2 14 186 13.3 38 0 3 0 8
16 0 25 333 13.3 47 3 3 1 19
13 0 8 89 11.1 31 0 2 0 5
16 10 63 895 14.2 34 5 12 0 45
15 15 73 1128 15.5 71 9 19 5 50
14 14 79 1012 12.8 40 5 12 1 56
16 16 95 1303 13.7 50 8 16 3 68
16 16 96 1168 12.2 37 7 1 2 0 67

The free agent is Derrick Mason, who signed for 5 years at 20 mil, with a 7 mil signing bonus. Ward is 2 years younger and a tougher blocker, but they seem mostly comperable. The point is that Ward is good, but he probably fits between Mason and Javon Walker and deserves Kordell's bonus.

Note: I tried spacing out the stats, but it didn't work...

by somebody (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 5:43pm

The falcons should try to trade for ward since you know ward is the best blocking wide receiver in the nfl and atlanta only asks their wide receivers to block, it's a match made in heaven.

by C (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 6:35pm

Paying players more money now because they performed well in the past is a sure-fire way to suck in three years.

by Dan L (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 7:17pm

Generally C I would agree with you. But there are times when paying one player an irrational amount of money may be the smart move. Ward has been such a solid player and citizen for the Steelers, paying him some amount of money for being a good citizen probably would encourage other players on the team to play the same way. If the other players believe tha tthey can increase their future earnings (not just perform to their contract, but overperform as much as Hines) then some amount of money to set a precedent is justified. Of course, it ought not to be a whole lot of difference in money for Hines, but some is justified.

Oh, and Starshatterer (#11)...good line.

by Israel (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 3:36am

The follow-up this morning is that Hines is threatening to sit out the season. It won't happen, of course, but we don't really need this. (See the link on my name.)

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 9:34am

If he holds out I'm going to feel pretty silly donning the #86 every weekend to watch the Stillers.

I think this idea that making him the highest paid Steeler in history has anything to do with the argument is silly. Someone has to be the highest paid, and I'd be happier if it was a talented, hard working gracious team player rather than a physically gifted ego-centric jerk who thinks he's either jesus or able to play only when he wants.

If ward is looking for a number like what Mushin Muhammed got, my thinking is that is totally fair. The argument against front loading it is generally: what if the guy doesn't work out? If the Rooney's can't feel comfortable taking a risk that Ward will work out over the next 5-7 years of a contract that they sign him to, then I doubt there's ever a player they'll feel comfortable signing to a long term front heavy deal.
I think by most measures Hines has been the picture of consistency, he's not asking for money 1 year into a deal, or demanding more after one season with abnormally high numbers compared to his career.
As for the Rooney's overpaying ward for his past contributions, I don't think this is the case. I have a feeling that if he'd command something higher than the Steeler's initial ccounteroffer.

Though you couldn't tell from the above post, I am not the member of the Hines Ward fanclub, I'm only the assistant treasurer.

by MDS (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 11:52am

Seriously, is there anyone stupid enough to be impressed by the whole "highest-paid Steeler ever" argument? Are there really people going, "well, golly, I didn't realize he was making more than Mean Joe Greene"?

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 2:38pm

I have to be careful because this is something I'm following, but in answer to your question, MDS, this is Pittsburgh. And in Pittsburgh, a line like that kind of matters.

In Chicago, I don't think it would even be considered.

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 2:45pm

"That said, the Rooneys don’t touch guys with Owens-type personalities."

Actually, every team has a player like Owens. And Owens isn't a bad guy, despite the negative PR about him. He's a guy with a perspective about guaranteed contracts that's shared by most of the players in the league.

"Ward has been such a solid player and citizen for the Steelers, paying him some amount of money for being a good citizen probably would encourage other players on the team to play the same way."

Nearly every player in the NFL is a decent, hard-working man who cares about his family, his community, the game and the community he lives in. To my knowledge, no GM has ever written a check based on these salient qualities.

They have, however, paid top dollar for steroid freaks, drug dealers and cheap hitters, so long as the money made sense.

I'm glad someone also posted Mike Prisuta. He's part of an excellent Steelers coverage team.

If you twist his arm, he'll be forced to admit that he went to the same school as Plaxico.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 3:01pm

Owens isn’t a bad guy, despite the negative PR about him. He’s a guy with a perspective about guaranteed contracts that’s shared by most of the players in the league.
Owens is also a guy who ran Jerry Rice, Steve Mariucci, and Jeff Garcia out of San Fran, making sure to strongly imply Garcia was gay along the way. Then he whined until he got traded, since there were no other Pro Bowlers left to draw coverage or get him the ball.

He makes every catch a celebration of himself, and blames every loss on the rest of the team.

He may not be a "bad" guy, but he's a terrible teammate. Why would any GM want to pay a premium for a player whose career is littered with the wreckage he makes of team chemistry? Especially when you can get two good receivers for less than he's being "underpaid" now.

by Mariucci Band (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 6:43pm

"Why would any GM want to pay a premium for a player whose career is littered with the wreckage he makes of team chemistry?"

1996 SF 16 16 35 520 14.9 46 4 23 1 1
1997 SF 16 16 60 936 15.6 56 8 48 1 0
1998 SF 16 16 67 1097 16.4 79 14 52 1 1
1999 SF 14 14 60 754 12.6 36 4 36 1 1
2000 SF 14 14 97 1451 15.0 69 13 65 2 1
2001 SF 16 16 93 1412 15.2 60 16 70 0 0
2002 SF 14 14 100 1300 13.0 76 13 61 0 0
2003 SF 15 15 80 1102 13.8 75 9 55 0 0
2004 PHI 14 14 77 1200 15.6 59 14 51 2 1
CAREER 135 -- 669 9772 14.6 79 95 461 8 5

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 1:57pm

I've gotta believe that this holdout should end soon. Please, do some behind the scenes negotiating. We all know Ward can't hold out during the year, he'll still be under contract, he'll lose money (which he does in fact need) and the Steelers need him to win. Rooney's be reasonable, Ward show up at camp.

by Countertorque (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 6:23pm

Click my name for some more analysis on Ward at stillers.com (including use of FO stats!).

I think the Steelers are making a bad decision by closing negotiations.