The way my crazy mind works, I always look at players released during cutdown weekend and focus on the money teams wasted by paying them significant amounts — only to flush them out to the street with golden parachutes months later.
In managing player costs for the Packers, the league’s only publicly-held franchise, for nine years, I always thought in terms of what was in the best interests of the shareholders. I believed that we – as employees of the team – were stewards of this national treasure called the Green Bay Packers and had a fiduciary duty to our fans and stockholders to serve their interests financially.
Here are some prominent examples of what just happened that may raise some financial eyebrows:
$ands of Time
The Raiders have been rumored to have cash issues. They have struggled with a lack of funding for a new stadium and the need for more revenue sharing among the clubs as they fall farther down the revenue rankings of the NFL.
That, however, didn’t stop them from excessive spending in 2008, including massive deals for players such as Tommy Kelly, Javon Walker (now cheaper to keep than release), DeAngelo Hall (released after eight games), Gibril Wilson (released after one season) and now Terdell Sands (released this weekend).
Sands was in Green Bay when I was there; he was as big a defensive lineman as I have ever seen. He showed brief flashes of ability but ended up disappointing, playing only one game with the Packers. Sands hooked on with the Raiders and showed enough to earn a four-year, $17-million deal in 2007, which I used as a comparable in negotiating the contract of Packers defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins.
Sands received a $4-million signing bonus as part of that deal and $1 million in offseason bonuses this year before his release. For a team struggling for revenue, Sands was another expensive mistake who pocketed millions of dollars before being set free to work for a minimum contract – at best – elsewhere.
The Raiders have also forfeited their top pick in the 2011 draft to acquire Richard Seymour from New England, a pick that’s expected to be quite high. But given the exorbitant cost of guaranteed money for previous first-rounders such as JaMarcus Russell, Michael Huff, Darren McFadden and Darrius Heyward-Bey, it will be a welcome non-expense.
The problem with acquiring Seymour is that he’s a free agent after this season. The Raiders run the risk of either (1) renting a player for one year and giving up the extremely high cost of a potential top pick, or (2) having to extend Seymour for top-of-market defensive lineman money, potentially upwards of $35M guaranteed – which is, coincidentally, the price of a top-five draft pick.
The Raiders keep adding to the cost side of their ledger while worrying about the revenue side.
It’s Good to be a McCown
The signing of Luke McCown in Tampa Bay earlier this year shows how long an offseason it is in the NFL and how things can change dramatically. When the Bucs rewarded McCown with a two-year, $7.5M contract with $2.5M in an upfront bonus in February, he was their starting quarterback. This was certainly not a typical backup quarterback deal.
But that was then, this is now. Since then, the Bucs drafted Josh Freeman in the first round and added veteran Byron Leftwich. And on Saturday, McCown was no longer a Buc, having that contract traded by the team with a parting gift of his $2.5M already earned. The Jacksonville Jaguars now assume the contract, but it’s for salary and incentives only, as the bonus has been paid.
This is the second time in two years that a McCown brother has signed early in the offseason for $2.5M in guaranteed money and then been traded at cutdown time due to changing circumstances. Last year, Josh McCown was the victim/beneficiary of the Brett Favre drama in Green Bay: The Jets’ acquisition of Favre led to the release of Chad Pennington, which led to the Dolphins’ acquisition of Pennington and the trading of McCown to Carolina, who assumed the contract with the bonus having been paid by the Dolphins early in the 2008 offseason.
Other financial notes on the cuts:
• No one values draft picks, especially those as high as the second round, more than Packers general manager Ted Thompson. Brian Brohm, last year’s second-round choice of the Packers (and his $1.5M guaranteed money that came with the contract), was released and then signed to the practice squad, leaving only 2008 seventh-rounder Matt Flynn as insurance for Aaron Rodgers (who is now one of the most important players in the NFL a year removed from being a backup). The Packers haven’t given up on Brohm, but the true test will be when a team comes calling to add him to their roster. What will the Packers do then?
• The duo that played a role in one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history is no longer part of the NFL. On Saturday, the Giants released David Tyree, recipient of the dramatic catch on top of his helmet in last year’s scintillating victory over the Patriots. The player covering Tyree, Rodney Harrison, retired earlier in the offseason after not receiving enough interest to continue playing. That play happened 18 months ago. How quickly things can change.
• Dunta Robinson, a franchise tag player with the Texans who has missed every second of the six-month offseason, will now sign his tender and report to the team. With training camp per diems of $2,000 a week and no obligation to be there, Robinson has stayed away. Now, with regular-season checks beginning this week – his franchise tender salary is $9.957M, meaning a weekly check for 1/17th of that amount, or $585, 706 – he will report. You think?
• I heard that the Chiefs offered Zach Thomas the “retirement” option before they released him, an option taken by Tedy Bruschi last week. He refused and was released, still wanting to play. We’ll see.