Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

11 May 2007

Faneca Playing Final Season in Pittsburgh

Hat tip to our good friends at PFT: Alan Faneca says that this will be his last season in Pittsburgh and that he hesitates to even remain as co-captain of the offense.

On the other hand, Faneca also said something to the effect that Ben Roethlisberger wasn't ready when he came into the lineup in 2004, and he did pretty well, from what I recall.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 11 May 2007

63 comments, Last at 16 May 2007, 12:30pm by ernie cohen


by Insancipitory (not verified) :: Fri, 05/11/2007 - 8:36pm

Hard to argue he isn't one of the, if not the, most underpaid lineman in the NFL. I wonder what a team might have to give up to entice the Steelers to trade him. Would have to be something pretty significant given who's behind him in the depthchart. Seems like trading him at this stage of the game would almost be an abortion of this upcoming season.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Fri, 05/11/2007 - 8:40pm

Good thing we drafted some solid linemen to address this and other issues.

Oh, right.

by Pete (not verified) :: Fri, 05/11/2007 - 8:42pm

I think Ben was rushed into the lineup. I think he did reasonably well in a near-ideal situation.

However, I believe his overall development may have been better with 1-2 years of growth. Now Ben has some high expectations and perhaps some bad habits to overcome... and the running game is not as strong and the defense may not be as strong, either.

I wonder if Pittsburgh will consider making him their Franchise Player.

by karl (not verified) :: Fri, 05/11/2007 - 9:21pm

The Steelers justifiably don't want to commit a ton of cash to a 31 year old guard. Good for them. Let granpa talk his nonsense in the papers, get one last good season out of him and then trade him to the Seahawks next year (after franchising him).

by James C (not verified) :: Fri, 05/11/2007 - 9:57pm

It is what ends up happening to guys like Faneca who have played like animals their whole careers only to be let go for a younger guy that makes me want to see a salary cap rule change to stop this stuff happening.

How about a guy who has played ten consecutive years for one team can be paid the average of years 8, 9 and 10 of his contract and only count for the veteran minimum against the cap.

Faneca would play out his career as a Steeler, Seau would have remained a Charger. I really don't see the downside of this rule change.

by All Tomorrow\'s Steelers (not verified) :: Fri, 05/11/2007 - 10:19pm

Three of the Steelers' best players, Ben Venti, Polamalu and Faneca, have upcoming negotiations. The Steelers are in a tight salary cap situation, and likely will have to settle for two of them at best. I would take Large Ben and Troy over the aging (but certainly still effective) Faneca.

by johnt (not verified) :: Fri, 05/11/2007 - 11:52pm

It's worth noting that, unlike most players complaining about their contracts, Faneca is on his second contract. He had plenty of leverage when he signed it (unlike the first contract players sign). If he was so worried about "his family" when he turned 31 and had only made eight figures, he should have gone for a longer contract.

His contract was (I think) the highest LG contract in the league when he signed it. Let me dry my crocodile tears. How's he going to PROVIDE for his FAMILY with this ridiculous contract he chose to sign?

by steelerjoe (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 12:01am

Faneca not care about Steeltown tradition. Breathe, eat, sleep pigskin to play for team that has one for the thumb. Get rid of crybaby ASAP, number six will be in Phoenix.

by Insancipitory (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 2:22am

Just to be clear All-pro Alan Faneca, who's been to 6? probowls, and will be playing this year without security beyond his 4 million and change in salary, when his lesser contemporaries have landed $50 million dollar deals, a guy who probably has as many as 5 all-pro years left, is ungreatful. And the Steelers are what exactly? I refuse to believe that in a league where the Redskins do what they do, that the Steelers can't get a deal done to secure the remaining good years Faneca has without breaking the team. Yeah, I'm sure that attitude really impresses other players around the NFL, play hard for the Steelers and they'll try not to kick you in the ass on your way out.

Big Ben looked really good when he was enveloped in a cloud of increadible talent and leadership, maybe the next step is to see how well he does without it.

by Bill Barnwell :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 2:58am

Big Ben looked really good when he was enveloped in a cloud of increadible talent and leadership

OK - OK - someone has to get their Photoshop going.

by Thee Lord, God (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 7:39am

And unto ye, did I deliver my second begotten son.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 7:46am

James C (#5 )--
How about a guy who has played ten consecutive years for one team can be paid the average of years 8, 9 and 10 of his contract and only count for the veteran minimum against the cap.
...I really don’t see the downside of this rule change.
The downside would be: it allows teams with talented veterans to retain them more easily, which is a pretty dang big loophole in the whole salary cap/free agent thing. You know, the rules many people believe make the NFL exciting to follow, since teams can't just stockpile talent and dominate, like (for example) the Steelers did in the 70s?

The whole point of the salary cap is that teams can't lock up veterans at discount rates.

by Alex (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 8:24am

#12: "The downside would be: it allows teams with talented veterans to retain them more easily, which is a pretty dang big loophole in the whole salary cap/free agent thing."

I don't think this would be a problem, as long as you restricted this to players entering their 11th year in the league (or something like that). By year 11, every player is on at least their second contract, so they'd have already had a chance at free agency. And honestly, I don't think any NFL team is going to be too terribly dominant just by stockpiling 11 year veterans, because, well, few NFL careers last a whole lot longer than 11 years. Also, restricting this rule to players who had spent their entire careers (or at least close to it) with the team in question would, I think, capture the spirit of what James C was getting at: It would prevent teams from merely picking up all the 11 year veterans from around the league and paying them ridiculous salaries without suffering a cap hit, but it would allow the franchise players to finish out their time in the NFL with the teams that they'd spent their careers playing for, without having to worry about ruining the teams salary cap.

Think about it: we could have avoided the whole messy business with Steve McNair getting run out of Tennessee, among many other salary cap related fiascos. And we'd still have a competitive league, with plenty of players moving from team to team in free agency after their first contract. I like the idea.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 10:06am

Explain to me why the rest of the league would offer the Colts a longevity discount on Marvin Harrison *and* Peyton Manning.

Extra credit for explaining why the Texans, who can't possibly have a ten-year veteran, would agree to this.

by James C (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 11:26am


Then you can explain to me why the Colts were given extra draft choices this year and how the Texans were supposed to qualify for extra draft choices for losing free agents when they hadn't been in the league very long.

by James C (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 11:32am

It wouldn't just be the star players either, it could be a decent guard who has played his whole career for one club, or the backup linebacker who plays great special teams.

You wouldn't be able to sign other teams old players as the rule would only come into effect in the 11th year you play for that club. it would probably only effect a dozen or so players a year, but those guys would finish their career with the club who they identify with most strongly. Fans would love it, well this fan would.

by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 12:27pm

Faneca would play out his career as a Steeler, Seau would have remained a Charger. I really don’t see the downside of this rule change.

This is akin to the Larry Bird rule in the NBA.

It also could have the effect of encouraging teams to draw up unrealistic contracts for sentimental purposes, and then hurting them down the line. Magic Johnson earned $14.5 million from the Lakers just in 1994-95, and that was four years after he had left the game (although he did make a brief comeback the following year).

by James C (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 12:38pm

The Texans might agree to it as in a few years they might be able to keep Andre Johnson and have him finish his career with them which would be a boon for their fans.

by AlexDL (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 12:39pm

I think that the "longevity rule" is an excellent idea.
This rule would change how teams and players do business for the second and possibly third contracts that they agree to with each other. You have to think that negotiations between player and club would be more civilised, if they both know that there is the prize at the tail end of a player's career of franchise level money for the player at veteran minimum scale for the team.

Regarding Manning and Harrison remaining with the Colts until they start collecting social security, I'm all for it. I would much rather watch great football from athletes that not only have the physical skills, but who also have developed an excellent professional repoir with each other. I truly believe that the "longevity rule" could potentially improve the quality of play league wide.

The rule places a higher premium on pre-draft scouting. One of the phrases heard often during draft weekend is a player anchoring their position for the next ten years. Well, wouldn't this rule make it more likely that such a scenario could happen?
Would this rule make it more or less likely that the Patriots would have traded for Moss and a one-year contract or would they have placed a higher premium on an early fourth round pick. Would more teams have been willing to trade up to get the "sure-thing", "can't-miss" prospect in Calvin Johnson.

The proposal of this rule opens up very intriguing sets of questions that are very interesting in how they would affect the game.

-Would these be year-to-year contracts like the franchise tag or could they be multi-year contracts?
-Would a signing bonus be allowed? How would this affect the cap?
-Would the contract be guaranteed?
-Would there be an option of either offering the "longevity rule" contract or any other kind of contract for elligible players?
-In what year of a players career would it be best to enact this rule? year based? contract based?

by Tom (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 2:11pm

McNair to the Ravens is exactly why this shouldn't happen. How competitive would Baltimore have been without McNair? How much better would Tennessee have been with McNair? We would never have got the Vince Young bandwagon. McNair would have been forced to play out his last years on a struggling Titans team instead of competing for the Superbowl.

by oljb (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 2:14pm

Faneca and Hines ward are right. Tomlin and Colbert should have released everyone on the freaking team except Faneca, Ward and Porter and divided up 99% of the salary cap between those three. Then, maybe sign 8 players recently graduated from Temple (or maybe more appropriately, from an assisted-living facility) to fill the other starting spots, and have everyone play both sides of the ball. Then we'll all "ooo" and "ahh" about how the Steelers reward their veteran players as they lose to the Browns 70-0. If Faneca wants security beyond what he's currently slated to make, and more guaranteed money, then sign the Steelers contract offer. If he wants to gamble on an even bigger payday (and it's not like the Steelers' offer is pocket change), wait another year. It's not like he doesn't have the option to extend his contract. If he's upset on missing out on the huge money from ever-increasing NFL revenues, he can blame his parents for conceiving him a few years too early.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 2:53pm

James C, AlexDL --

You miss the point. The significant effect of this idea, would be to provide free cap relief for teams that *already* have superstars. Why would the 27 or so NFL teams without a top-shelf franchise quarterback, offer $9+ million in free cap space to the five or so which do?

Short answer: they wouldn't. And therefore more than half the teams would nix this idea. Just bacuse you like to watch Manning-to-Harrison all the time, doesn't mean that the Jaguars, Titans, and Texans want to offer the Colts free budget space to keep that *and* all the defense they can afford

by AlexDL (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 3:59pm

Starshatterer, it appears that you are taking a fairly short-sighted view to this discussion.
Who is to say that in two or three years that the Jaguars, Texans and Titans will not have players worthy of the longevity rule distinction.
As James C mentions in #18, Andre Johnson could be an excellent candidate in 5 or so years. DeMeco Ryans and Mario Williams, both entering their second year have shown promise that could develop into an amazing defense. Wouldn't it be great for the Texans' fans to cheer for what has become a powerhouse team with a core of experienced players that have played together for a decade. Players that they are now gathering in the worst days of the franchise, much like the late 90s were for the Colts.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 4:52pm

AlexDL (#23 )--

Except that, by definition, there cannot be 32 top-five quarterbacks. So every team that doesn't have such a quarterback locked up (since there's money under the current salary cap to lock up your franchise quarterback), gets to watch those teams get free cap money as soon as the franchise QB enters year 11.

And it's not in the interest of young, rebuilding teams to subsidize established veterans on other teams. How good does the rest of the AFC East feel if the Patriots get a free hometown discount of $2 million or so on the cap numbers for Tedy Bruschi this year, and on into perpetuity?

How about next year when the Patriots get another $2.5 million to keep Kevin Faulk?

How about when the hometown discount for Tom Brady kicks in? I think the Patriots might like $14 million of extra cap room, to try and lure away some of those young Jets players who'd be coming up for their first free agent contracts. The Jets, Bills, and Dolphins? Not as much, no.

It will never fly.

by James C (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 5:55pm

It wouldn't neccessarily have to be the veteran minimum, maybe just a discount. Also it wouldn't just be the star players, every team could have maybe a couple of its players who have played their whole career with them. It wouldn't just be the top teams that got cap relief. It rewards loyalty by both team and player, there are plenty of other facts of life in the NFL that don't encourage parity I don't see the problem with this one. Maybe if had been easier to keep a team with McNair's salary on it together the Titans would have stayed a contender.

It would change the league in a small way, I am just not convinced that it would cause irreparable damage to parity.

by James C (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 6:14pm

Maybe I am not as enamoured with parity as you are. At the very least I think the cycle of good team to bad team to good team should be a bit longer.

I also think you are focusing too much on franchise QBs. There are plenty of other players on a football team. There are also plenty of QBs worth keeping that aren't top five at their position. It isn't as though the Pats and Colts don't already have a huge competitive advantage from having their franchise QBs at the moment.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 6:28pm

It isn’t as though the Pats and Colts don’t already have a huge competitive advantage from having their franchise QBs at the moment.
So why give them another?

by James C (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 6:43pm

When guards are pulling $7m a year, why is there a bigger competitive advantage for the Colts and Pats? You have to play two guards.

I just don't agree that it it automatically makes the league more unequal. I just think it would raise the standard of play a little, and allow players fans have been rooting for for ten years to finish their careers in front of the same fans. Obviously with the caveat that they should only stay if they want to.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 6:55pm

I just think it would raise the standard of play a little.
For certain teams.

For other teams, they must play at a reduced level, since this would reduce the available pool of free agents.

Maybe Cleveland would like to hire a veteran guard. Why should Pittsburgh be able to get a discount in bidding for his services? Because Steeler fans haven't had enough success from their team?

I was a fan of a doormat team for decades, with nothing more entertaining than an improbable wild-card-to-Superbowl run (and blowout loss) to watch. Less free agent movement = more doormat teams.

I'm opposed, even though my team is doing quite well now.

by Joepinion (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 7:40pm


McNair would have been forced to play out his last years on a struggling Titans team instead of competing for the Superbowl.

McNair would not have been FORCED to do anything. He could still leave as a free agent and sign with anyone he wants. The difference is that the Titans would have been able to sign him to a nice deal without killing the cap if he chose them.

by James C (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 7:56pm

I can't really think of any teams who were built using free agency who have gone on to great things. I suffered through Dave Wannstedt running the Bears into the floor followed by some fairly futile years under Jauron and came to one conclusion. Successful teams have strong front offices and good coaching staffs. I know that sounds stupidly simple, but my point is that free agency doesn't make a bad team win. I don't see how changing the rules so long tenured players finish their career with the teams they played for more than ten years for really makes much difference.

Only two Superbowls in the last ten years have been won by a QB who would have qualified for a discount under this rule change, John Elway and his win had a lot to do with putting a great team aroung him.

by Craigo (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 7:57pm

I've watched every Steelers game over the last three seasons, and my unscientific analysis is that Faneca was a monster in 2004, average in 2005 and 2006. (Yes, he made the Pro Bowl. And yes, players make the Pro Bowl by their reputation and not their on-field product all the time.)

He wants market-value for his position where that value is already inflated, but I'm not sure he's worth market-value now. He almost certainly won't be in 2008. Whichever teams gets him in free agency next offseason is in for a nasty shock.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 8:36pm

I can’t really think of any teams who were built using free agency who have gone on to great things.
Notable Patriot free agents during their recent Superbowl run:
Mike Vrabel
David Patten
Roman Phifer
Rodney Harrison
Antowain Smith
Christian Fauria
Corey Dillon
Joe Andruzzi
Russ Hochstein
Brandon Gorin
Otis Smith
Tyrone Poole
Rosevelt Colvin
Bryan Cox
Don Davis
Larry Izzo
Hank Poteat
josh Miller
Someone willing to devote more than five minutes to looking could probably name some more.

Now, were these guys key contributors? Some of them. Others provided useful depth or special-teams value. There aren't too many names you could strike from this list and say the Patriots even make three superbowls, much less win them. The 2001 team, especially, needed a wholesale heart transplant on defense (to go with the brain transplant on offense). Ty Law doesn't pick off Kurt Warner unless Mike Vrabel is hitting Warner as he tried to throw. Rams win, 17-13.

by James C (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 9:07pm

I don't see how that list refutes the main thrust of my argument that good coaching and team management build successful teams not free agency.

There is one seriously good player on that list and under the system I am proposing he would have stayed in San Diego.

A more incisive analysis shows that the 2002 Patriots took advantage of a unique set of circumstances, namely a league wide shunning of experienced veterans over young players. Before the league reduced the cost of veteran players against the cap every team in the league tried to get by with younger, cheaper players. When the rules changed Belichick and Pioli twigged that you could get experienced veterans players for the same money as 1st and 2nd year players and signed a bunch of them. A great move by a strong organisation. Also I suspect a one off formed by a rule change, but time will tell on that one. I would also point out that the first champoinship was bloody lucky and no one knows what would have happened if they hadn't won the first one.

by James C (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 9:12pm

"Ty Law doesn’t pick off Kurt Warner unless Mike Vrabel is hitting Warner"

Ty Law was drafted by the Patriots and Vrabel was brought in after 3 or 4 years of his career. Neither player pertains to this discussion.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 9:43pm

James C--

Yousaid you couldn't really think of any teams who were built using free agency who have gone on to great things.. I provided you with an example. Quibble all you want, I've refuted the point you made.

I also gave you numerous reasons why current have-nots in the league wouldn't like that particular rule change. You say I'm "enamoured with parity"; AlexDL says I'm "short-sighted." Maybe.

But it seems to me that a majority of the teams are also enamoured with parity, to the extent that they built the current salary cap system to bring about exactly the sort of situation Faneca and the Steelers are in.Successful team. Good players. Not enough cap room to keep everyone, and keep them happy.

And -- just a hunch here -- I sincerely doubt the hope that maybe, six or eight years from now, they can benefit from this rule themselves, would bring them around to give free cap space to successful teams right now. Even if it's short-sighted of them.

It will never happen.

by MJK (not verified) :: Sat, 05/12/2007 - 10:24pm

I have to agree with Starshatterer on this one, but for a different reason than has been brought up. All the NFL teams are NOT equal in the resources they have available, and the new revenue sharing plan only partially addresses this. New England, Houston, Washington, Philadelphia, and the like will continue to have significantly more available cash than Green Bay, Buffalo, and Indy. Under the current cap structure, with what revenue sharing there is, this isn't a problem, because every team has the ability to spend to the cap, but consider what could happen under the longevity rule you propose.

Players entering their second contract will naturally try to put big numbers in their 8th, 9th, and 10th year, especially under the structure you proposed, because their subsequent salaries are based on these years. At least they will if their agents are any good. But, unlike now, these years might not be as much "funny money" years as they are now, because teams have a real incentive for keeping good veterans up to the 10 year mark, because then they get their services after that discounted against the cap. Assuming they can afford the high salaries (as the big market teams can), the team has the incentive to pay a couple of years of big money to get the player under the rule. And if they cannot, the player gets a lot more negotiation leverage because if the team cuts him, they lose the potential to take advantage of the rule.

Big market teams could therefore take advantage of this rule more than small market teams, who might not be able to afford to pay a number of veterans a very high salary for their 8th, 9th, 10th, and then however many years beyond, even if the cap hit was discounted. Players with short rookie contracts or rookie UFA's would be more willing to sign with big market teams because of this. In short, you would give the rich teams back some of the advantage that they lost when the salary cap and the revenue sharing plans were implemented.

by James C (not verified) :: Sun, 05/13/2007 - 8:35am


You haven't refuted the point I made at all. If you took a team of those players on your list and filled in the edges with average players you wouldn't make 8-8. All of the impact players on that team were drafted by the Patriots. The team wasn't built through free agency. The point you refuted would be, 'No team with free agents has ever won the Superbowl.'

We seem to some extent to be arguing different points. I am maintaining that if the league could find a way to allow these players to stay with their team it would be beneficial to fans of the teams. I may be wrong but you seem to be saying that even if what I am saying is true the league wouldn't vote for it. In this respect I think you are correct, but there are a great many good ideas that the league wouldn't approve. I suspect that attempting to forge consensus at a league meeting would be akin to trying to herd cats.

by James C (not verified) :: Sun, 05/13/2007 - 9:01am

Allowing the player to receive a higher salary than his cap number could be acheived a number of ways, not just by the veteran minimum. Teams could get amelioration on prorated monies in the 11th year, maybe 10% in year 11, 20% in year 12, 30% in year 13 and so on. You wouldn't have to give a team $10m of free cap room, you could just give tham a bit. I still think tha teams would want younger players on their rosters as older players start to get injured.


I do agree that it could possibly have worse conequences for smaller market teams, if it were up to me there would be a greater degree of revenue sharing anyway but that may be a whole other conversation.

by JMM (not verified) :: Sun, 05/13/2007 - 10:37am

As a Steeler fan, I can assure you that I would support every team but Pitt holding onto multiple players on a long and expensive 3rd contract. A player looking at his 3rd contract has been in the league around 6-10 years. In most cases their best years are behind them. The Steelers have signed 2 starters to major 3rd contracts: Ward and Aaron Smith. I would have signed Faneca over Ward but as to building a team around guys at or near 30, or signing more than a couple to three... no thanks. Football is a young man's game.

by steelberger1 (not verified) :: Sun, 05/13/2007 - 1:48pm

Re 9: What is that muffled sound? Oh, it is you speaking out of your ass.

The Steelers are acting ungrateful? How so? The last contract he signed made him one of the highest paid players at his position, if not the highest.

Now, they have very limited cap space, and in the next year they need to resign 1) their YOUNG franchise QB, 2) their YOUNG all pro safety, and 3) their AGING all pro guard. What would you choose?

And I love Faneca, he is one of the best...but if you think he has 5 all-pro years left in him, I have a bridge I'd like to sell ya...

by Insancipitory (not verified) :: Sun, 05/13/2007 - 6:39pm

Guard is one of those positions where people can play at a high level on technique as opposed to raw physical power, Faneca is pretty good at pulling too, knows where he's supposed to be and wiping out guys at the next level. Players like Faneca have had pro/all-pro years into their mid-30s. Occasionally, they'll play with some effectiveness until they're nearly 40. With the cap expansion expected, there's money to pay him. But fine, let's take it as a given that there isn't. This is a man who's done everything for the team including restructuring his deal, and he'd like security beyond the last year of his contract. You know what's fair, picking up a guard in the draft and trading him. It's clear with the Steelers loyalty isn't two way. That's all.

by James C (not verified) :: Sun, 05/13/2007 - 7:32pm

I heard that the Steelers offered $19m over the first 3 years and Faneca wanted $24m.

Why don't they just split the difference and make up.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sun, 05/13/2007 - 9:25pm

If you took a team of those players on your list and filled in the edges with average players you wouldn’t make 8-8.
Before they signed any of 'em, they went 5-11.
All of the impact players on that team were drafted by the Patriots.
What definition of "impact player" are you using that leaves out Vrabel, Harrison, Patten (caught the only offensive TD they scored in Superbowl XXXVI), Smith (ran for a TD in Superbowl XXXVIII), and Dillon?

BTW, I missed all the DL free agents:
Bobby Hamilton
Anthony Pleasant
Ted Wahington
Keith Traylor
If you meant "what team has ever had 53 free agents on the roster?", then no, that never happened.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 05/14/2007 - 1:55am

In my heart I really ike the proposed 11-year rule, but I think many owners would see (rightly or wrongly) inequities in it--Indy with Manning and Harrison and Glenn at LT, and NE with this Brady guy being two examples of the rich getting richer.

But I think MJK's attorney/agent/MBA view is even more astute: Most of us and surely TMQ righly scoff at the funny money at the end of back-loaded contracts. This rule would usher in a new era of real funny money--the numbers might not be quite as big, but teams have incentive to pay it if the performance is there to get a CAP-only break for a couple years to sign more talent elsewhere, provided of course they can cough up the cash to pay the oldsters "off the cap books." Small market teams like my Colts would be at a cash disadvantage (probably in perpetuity) even though they are at a talent advantage (right now).

Using imaginary numbers, Indy could pay to keep Tarik Glenn $10M each year in years 8,9,10, and take the cap hits, just for the honor of paying him about the same the next three years (assuming they have the free cash), but only taking a cap hit of 1/10 that, freeing up another $9M or so in cap room to snag 2009's version of Adalius Thomas, or lock up a younger FA through HIS 10th year. Think of the freak-show dominance an above-average team could have for a few years if they have one or two consecutive good drafts--suddenly, 4 of their top vets (Indy drafted Harrison, Glenn, and Manning in consecutive years, and James was a pro-bowler who came the next year too) have an effective cap hit of 1/10 what they had the year before, and that extra $30M per year in cap space can be randomly sprayed about on high profile FAs.

And if this was a team's strategy, to lock up their younger FAs with the cap surplus until THOSE guys hit their 11th years, it would start to resemble the old dynasty years within five years or so.

It's key to note that the 11-year players are still free agents and Dan Snyder could still outbid their old team, but who really liked seeing Johnny Unitas spend his final sad season in powder blue? I have a soft-headed admiration for teams and players who stick it out for 12-15-17 years together. I suspect most of fandom does to some extent and it might serve to increase the fan base--which really gets the owners' juices flowing. Of course if it hurts competitivness, well the fans may leave in droves.

Lets revisit this in ten years after Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis lead the Bangalore Wafer Chips against Tom Brady, Julius Peppers, and the Dubai Gushers in the Super Bowl. Interrupted, of course, by Bud Bowl XXXV.

by James C (not verified) :: Mon, 05/14/2007 - 11:01am

Weren't the Pats 1-4 before Bledsoe got hurt? Even with all of your wonderful free agents!!!

You have produced a list of free agents spanning a four year period, it doesn't prove anything. Most of the guys on that list never played with each other. The Pats success was/is builtaround a core of elite players, not a bizarre list of free agents (some of which weren't even free agents).

"What definition of “impact player� are you using that leaves out Vrabel, Harrison, Patten (caught the only offensive TD they scored in Superbowl XXXVI), Smith (ran for a TD in Superbowl XXXVIII), and Dillon?"

Vrabel I missed out because he isn't a great player, just a good one who benefitted massively from playing directly behind one of the most dominant linemen of his generation (Seymour, I feel I have to spell out the obvious here). Harrison is the guy who would have stayed in San Diego, I inferred that he is a great player (incidentally did Harrison getting cut by the Bolts increase parity or did he go to one of the top teams in the league and win the next two Superbowls?). Patten and Smith are fairly ordinary players, they haven't exactly set the league on fire elsewhere. Dillon wasn't even a fee agent.

By impact player I mean a guy who changes the way the opposition try to play against you. Brady, Law, Seymour, Harrison (see you got one, even if his aquisition actually stands to disprove your argument), Washington (no he doesn't count as he was a trade as well), Bruschi (when in his prime), Dillon (trade again).

by steelberger1 (not verified) :: Mon, 05/14/2007 - 11:31am

42: You make it sound like restructuring his contract makes him some kind of hero.

You realize all that means is that he converted future salary into signing bonus, right? He didnt lose any money, he converted future earnings into money in his pocket.

I agree that Faneca has sweat blood for the Steelers, but using restructuring as a argument doesnt make any sense...it just shows that you dont really know how the system works.

by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 05/14/2007 - 12:17pm

James C,

I see your points, but I think maybe both you and Starshatter are drifting to the extreme ends of the arugment. You can't build a winning team solely through FA (just ask Dan Snyder). You also can't convert a 5-11 team (and a relatively bad 5-11 team, that has been bad for several seasons before that) into a SB winner with the draft alone.

The 2000 Patriots were 5-11, and they were a bad, painful to watch, 5-11. The acquired a host of new FA's, and had one draft, plus players maturing from the 2000 draft, and that improved them enough to squeak out a SB season. Here's the list of the impact players (i.e. players who stayed on the roster for more than a season or so) from those two drafts:
Tom Brady
Patrick Pass
Richard Seymour
Matt Light

So I'll grant you--picking up your best two players at two critical positions (QB and DE) for the next decade, along with a solid LT and a serviceable RB will definitely improve a team. But it will not take a 5-11 team to the SB without also building more talent across the board and depth through FA.

The 2003 Pats were another example of how you need both a draft and FA to improve. The 2002 Pats were a good but fundamentally flawed team...they were essentially a one trick pony on both sides of the ball, and once opponents figured that out and neutralized their trick, the team was done. So look at who they drafted:
Ty Warren
Eugene Wilson
Bethel Johnson
Dan Klecko
Asante Samuel
Dan Koppen

And brought in in FA:
Rodney Harrison
Rosie Colvin
Ted Washington
Keith Traylor

They 03-04 Pats that were so dominant were built by a few excellent drafts AND very canny FA acquisitions. They would not have been good without both.

Incidentally, the Pats were actually 0-1, on their way to 0-2 (by a score of 3-10, so not by much) when Bledsoe got injured. So you can't draw any conclusions from their pre-Brady 2001 season.

by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 05/14/2007 - 12:24pm

As to Faneca, what is the big deal?

Faneca is a still-talented guard who probably will be a big help to a team for a number of years. However, team's can't afford to cling to a veteran forever...the Steelers probably recognize that while he probably has two to four good years left, that's all he probably has, and so they need to groom a younger replacement. And paying both a talented veteran and a talented youngster to be groomed is often not cost-feasible under the cap, especially at a sub-critical position like guard, and especially with how veeteran guards have suddenly started to get paid.

From Faneca's standpoint, given how guards are getting paid, he probably could get more money on the open market than in a long term deal from the Steelers. So maybe its best for him to go elsewhere next year. Now, if the Steelers franchise him, that's another matter...

Not to keep bringing up Patriots in a Steelers thread, but a couple of years ago the Pats "released" Troy Brown. The local media was up in arms...how could they do that to him, after he had been so loyal and done so much for the organization? I thought it was a reward. He had been due to make a couple of million the next year. On the open market, New Orleans offered him triple that, with a bunch gauranteed, and a promise to make him their #2 WR. Belichick essentially rewarded him by letting him test the market (he ended up re-signing with the Pats, probably because the endorsement deals he got in NE made up the difference in contracts).

It's a business people. Let the emotion go...

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 05/14/2007 - 1:04pm

James C (#46 )--

Let's get back to the original point of yours:
I can’t really think of any teams who were built using free agency who have gone on to great things.
Obviously, no team has ever played with all free agents. But look at the roster for the 2001 Patriots (linked).

Almost half the guys on the roster were acquired via free agency, signed from another team's practice squad, or claimed from waivers. This includes two defensive line starters, both starting guards, two starting linebackers, a starting cornerback, the nickel corner, the starting fullback, a starting tight end, the top running back and every wide receiver with more than one start except Troy Brown.

Now, you're going to say that most of these players were not ten-year veterans. So? If you give a team cap relief to re-sign its own ten-year veterans, that frees up space to bid for other teams' four- or five-year veterans, or to extend their own.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Mon, 05/14/2007 - 1:54pm

James C's point is, how many 8,9,10 and above year vets were FA signees that were only on their second contract and helped a team improve drastically?

He's not talking about just any FAs because there would still be those - he's talking about guys on their third contract staying with the same team or going to a different one.

by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 05/14/2007 - 4:16pm

How come Hines Ward wasn't a poophead when he was complaing for a new contract? It was going on the exact same time TO was happening. Oh yeah, Hines Ward is a like-able guy who smiles a lot.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 05/14/2007 - 4:35pm

Mactbone (#51 )--

That's okay; he keeps missing my point. Which is, what kind of advantage does a team get if they can keep their own ten-year veterans (for depth, if nothing else) at a discount, and sign other free agents with the cap savings?

by James C (not verified) :: Mon, 05/14/2007 - 5:47pm

How could I (or anybody else) have failed to get your point?

I didn't agree with it, but that is because it isn't possible for one team to have a de facto competitive advantage through a device available to every team in the league. MJK provided insightful criticism through the problems it might cause small market teams. A legitimate concern which I had overlooked, I do think that such problems could be overcome through revenue sharing more fully. Bobman points out that it may damage parity and drive fans away. I am not convinced that it would cause the league to be more unequal, I just think it would reduce rapid roster turnover which I personally consider to be a plague on team cohesion inflicted by the vagaries of the salary cap. I think that increased team cohesion would lead to better play (especially on the offensive line) league wide, I think it would improve the game as a spectacle.

And Mr Shatterer you keep going back to my 'original point' (which is a joke in itself as it was written in the 31st post in the thread). If you feel the arguments in the thread are becoming a little disjointed then maybe you shouldn't just quote a small part of what I have written (decontextualising it in the process) and then rip into it.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 05/14/2007 - 6:51pm

it isn’t possible for one team to have a de facto competitive advantage through a device available to every team in the league.
Except the Texans. And any other team that had few or no ten-year veterans on the team.

by James C (not verified) :: Mon, 05/14/2007 - 7:04pm

In four years the Texans will have been in the league for ten years. How about then?

There are plenty of bigger disadvantages to being an expansion franchise yet they still agreed to be in the league.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 05/14/2007 - 7:07pm

If you wanted "a device available to every team in the league," you'd argue for the ten-year rule, to take effect ten years hence.

Even then, I doubt a majority of teams would favor it, since NFL ownership tends to be in favor of breaking up good teams. Hence the interaction of the salary cap, free agency, and the draft we have now.

by AlexDL (not verified) :: Mon, 05/14/2007 - 7:51pm

MJK #49
It’s a business people. Let the emotion go…


The emotion of the game and the players involved in it are the reasons why I love football. It's a very passionate game. Very emotional. We want the players on our teams to go out there and give it everything that they have on every play and when they do, and win, there is emotion there. Great emotion. Not just for them but for the fans that follow the team.

I'm sure everyone who is reading a message board about pro football in the middle of May is emotionally involved in this game in some way. If your not, then you are different than me.
That is all.

by James C (not verified) :: Mon, 05/14/2007 - 8:16pm

AlexDL - I agree on that one


You seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that free agency and the salary cap were introduced to break up good teams. This is incorrect. The league agreed to free agency because well, they had to sooner or later a court would have ruled that a team had no right to stop a player leaving just because it had selected him in an archaic ritual called 'the draft'. As far as I know they already had with Reggie White. The league bargained with the union and agreed that they could have free agency as long as the league could cap total salaries (hence salary cap). The league hasn't done anything to increase parity since Pete Rozelle was in charge, in fact only the draft and revenue sharing are supposed to create parity. Revenue sharing has been getting diluted ever since big business got involved with the NFL and the cap figures of the top draft picks have been acting to reduce the levelling effect of the draft in recent years. That was the long version, the short one is that free agency has nothing to dowith parity.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 05/14/2007 - 8:52pm

free agency has nothing to dowith parity.
Free agency was not introduced to increase parity. It has done so anyway, especially in conjunction with a salary cap that constrains teams that have many good players, from paying them all the going free-agent rate.

Important distinction.

by Steve (not verified) :: Tue, 05/15/2007 - 10:13am

Re: 52, it could be because (a) Hines Ward was more than one year into his deal and, more importantly, (2) he didn't throw his teammates under the bus in order to get a better deal.

by Jerry (not verified) :: Tue, 05/15/2007 - 7:00pm

As to Faneca, what is the big deal?

-He's one of the best guards in the league.

-More importantly, it's an actual controversy during minicamp, which makes life much easier for media members who don't have to get into details about who the starting center will be. (You can imagine how big a deal this was, and still is, in Pirttsburgh.)

It’s a business people. Let the emotion go…

IIRC, you've moved from New England to the Bay Area, yet you still prefer to go out of your way to watch the Patriots instead of patronizing your local purveyor(s). Does that fit what you're saying?

I find rooting for players more satisfying than "rooting for laundry". I understand how Faneca wants to re-sign with the Steelers for something near market value, how the club doesn't want to pay him what's become the going rate for top guards, and how this would frustrate a player who has been willing to move between guard and tackle in the same game when asked to. Eventually, I think Faneca will come to terms with the idea that this is his last season in Pittsburgh, that playing well will increase his market value, and possibly that risking further injury while playing nicked up is a bad idea businesswise.

by ernie cohen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/16/2007 - 12:30pm

Since this is a statistical site, has anybody studied what a good guard is actually worth? For example, one could start by looking the correlation between salary and performance for the whole OL. My impression is that the current guard mania is not due to any sudden enlightenment on the part of ownership.