Friday, August 1, 2008

Can I Get A Do-Over?

I have touched (rambled) on this subject before, (here, and here) but with the start of training camp, I think it's time to revisit that age old issue known as 'the contract situation.'

It's really starting to piss me off. Every year, some of the biggest news heading into training camp is not "how will so-and-so fit in with his new team" or "will the draft picks make a difference" or a million other questions about the state of the team. No, it is always about contract situations. And how half the players on the team are unhappy with theirs.

Gimme a freakin' break.

I understand all the quotes players rattle off. "This is a business." "I am just looking out for my family." "I have outperformed my contract."

Now, that last one is a bit of a sticky spot. In the NFL, contracts are not guaranteed, so a team can cut a player who is underperforming. But if a player overperforms, he does not get anything extra except maybe a bonus here and there. So I'll give them that.

Here's my issue, something that seems to really affect the Eagles more than any other team:

Young players signing long-term contracts extensions (I''m looking at you, Lito, Westbrook, and Shawn Andrews), and then immediately complaining about how they are not fair.

They have to understand what they are doing when they sign through 2013, right? It's called giving up maximum dollars for long-term security. Or are they hiring agents from the Hollywood Upstairs Sports Agency School?

Every year, the price to sign a star free agent goes up. Nate Clements signed a big deal last year, Asante Samuel signed a bigger one this year. If you sign an 8-year contract extension, and then a year later someone who you think you're better than signs a bigger deal, you can't just say "I want a new contract."

Either don't sign the extension, or stop complaining about it.

It wasn't like the Eagles held a gun to their head - they made smart business decisions by locking up young talent for the long-term before they can hit free agency. The Eagles do take on some risk as well - there is guaranteed money in the form of signing bonuses. If a player they think will be good ends up tearing all his ligaments or forgets how to block, they still get that signing bonus ($8.7 million in Lito's case).

I understand you want to get the most bang for your buck, but you can't have it both ways.

If you want to continually get what you are worth on the open market, sign a one-year contract (or 2 or 3, no need to be so drastic). If you want the piece of mind and stability that a long-term contract affords you, go ahead and sign on the dotted line, just don't go bitching about it two years later.

In the case of Westbrook, I don't know what he was thinking when he signed that contract. If you hear him talk, you know he has confidence in his abilities and thinks he is one of the best RBs in the league. So why sign a contract before you show that true potential? The Eagles were able to buy low on Westbrook, getting the extension done right before he burst through as a top 3 running back. Running backs have short shelf lives, and probably only get 1 or 2 really good contracts before they get sent to pasture. I'm sure his agent knew that, I'm sure he knew that, before they signed the deal. Imagine what he could have gotten if he was a free agent this year? He blew it, plain and simple (I guess that's what you get with a 'Nova education).

I remember when they announced Lito Sheppard's and Sheldon Brown's extensions. It was a big deal - locking up our secondary for years to come with two bright young promising stars. I remember chuckling and thinking how the front office (RJ) swindled these guys into extensions, knowing full well that they would be worth so much more in a couple seasons. Well why didn't they know that?

And remember our good friend T.O.? You know what kick-started his removal from the team? It wasn't his relationship with McNabb, or that we lost the Super Bowl, or that he was under so much pressure from concealing his homo-erotic tendencies, no it was his contract. A year into signing a 7 year, $49 million dollar deal with the Eagles he was unsatisfied with it! One year in!You know why? 'Cuz it was backloaded, and he realized the Eagles would cut him before he saw the big money at the end of the contact. Again, let me ask, what kind of agents are they hiring? Do they not read the fine print?

Now, I don't know if this situation can be solved. It's not really the players, front offices, or agents fault (well, it is kind of the agents). It's the whole mess that is the NFL collective bargaining agreement. Matt Ryan will probably make more money with his rookie deal than Westbrook will make in his entire career. Go figure.

So what I am going to do is give some advice to the Phillies: overpay for a quality starting pitcher (Cole Hamels would do just fine). Scout the leagues, target a guy you think will be a stud for 5,6,7 years to come. Sign him to a record contract. Guess what? Within two years, that record contract, that oh-my-god, this is the biggest deal in the history of the MLB, will be an afterthought. Because some team will come along and find the next best guy and give him an even bigger deal two years later. And there won't be anything our pitcher can do about it.

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