Ahman Green has agreed to a reduced contract with the Houston Texans. In the range of options that the Texans had between keeping Ahman at his present rate of pay and releasing him outright, this appeared to be a logical compromise, although not one that the Texans anticipated making with their mar Andrew Brandt
Ahman had been a wonderful player for us at the Packers. Acquired in a trade in 2000, he turned out to be a productive running back right away, taking over for Dorsey Levens. We went to him in 2001, his restricted free agent year, and extended him with a five-year deal with a 5M bonus. He actually played out that deal — a rarity in the NFL — despite many protestations by he and his agent about re-working it, especially when Clinton Portis hit the jackpot in Washington after extricating himself from Denver.
Ahman had a very close relationship with Mike Sherman — more on that later with the Texans — which made it difficult for me to argue against a monster contract for him. Sherman was our head coach and general manager and had a soft spot for Ahman. I personally liked Ahman a lot as well, but always pointed to the graveyard out there for contracts of running backs over the age of 28 or 29 — Eddie George, Jamal Anderson, Corey Dillon, etc. — that were emotional reactions by clubs to beloved players that came from their hearts and not their heads.
Ultimately, we never extended Ahman and in his final year of the contract he was injured for the majority of 2005 season. We settled on a one-year contract in 2006, using a contract twist involving 45-man active roster bonuses for every game active, protecting ourselves if he became injured again. This was the first instance where we had used these 45-man active roster bonuses as Ahman was coming off a major injury. They have since become a staple of Packer contracts.
Ahman stayed injury-free in 2006 and we negotiated late in the season and into the early 2007 offseason. We would have re-signed him but for a wildcard out there in free agency. Mike Sherman had been terminated as our head coach by new general manager Ted Thompson and landed as offensive coordinator in Houston with, apparently, some influence over personnel. Ahman was also visiting with Denver and Oakland, but we knew the only real suitor that mattered was Houston.
And what a suitor they were. After being wined and dined and taken to a Rockets game, Ahman spent the day with his former coach Mike Sherman and rekindled that relationship. That was all expected. What we did not expect was the aggressive level of contract they were offering, especially 8M in the first year for a 30 year-old running back! We had been at 5M for first-year money but with the Texans going to this level we reluctantly crossed the 7M threshold for the first year, but wanting 2M of it to be in the form of 45-man active roster bonuses. This was one of those offers where I didn’t know whether I wanted want him to take it or not, as I had a feeling this was going to be a deal we would be re-working — as the Texans are now doing — if he took it.
I spent the entire time during my son’s 10th birthday party at — of course — Lambeau field on the phone with Ahman’s agent and Ahman trying to tell them that this was bigger than money, that Packer stars like Ahman have a lifetime pass wherever they go, that he would hold all the Packer records, that he would not like Houston, that he shouldn’t be fooled by all the recruiting, that Mike Sherman would not be there long, and so on. It was all for naught.
Ahman, although nearly 30, was smitten with the whole free agent recruiting thing — private plane, Rockets game, etc. — and the agent was smitten with the money. I asked him how many times he thought he might fly in that private plane after that day, but got no reply. We had lost him to Mike Sherman and the Texans.
I was communicating with Ted Thompson throughout the process while he was driving to a college workout. At that time of year, Ted was always on the road so I had to be able to control these free agent situations that came up fast and furiously, often with one of our players sitting in the offices of another team.
The rest did not go well for Ahman. He was injured for a large part of last season; Mike Sherman left after the season to take a head coaching position at Texas A&M, and now he is taking a pay cut from 3.8M to 1.8M. One other thing about this reduction: he can make back 3M if he is on the 45-man active roster bonus for 15 games. These are exactly the kind of bonuses that I tried once again to put in the proposed Packer contract that Houston agreed it would not! Now they are the basis for a salary reduction with an opportunity to make more based on health.
Last year Ahman gained 260 yards for his 8M, roughly $31,000 a yard. When we lost Ahman to Houston, I felt sick from an emotional standpoint (not only due to the fact that I missed my son’s 10th birthday party). He was one of the all-time great Packer players and should have retired a Packer. (We’ve heard this one throughout the summer, haven’t we?) However, I knew that this was not a deal we should have made financially.
We struggled for a while last season without Ahman until Ryan Grant came into his own with his stellar play, earning a stunning contract after limited experience. Ahman was missed as a presence in Green Bay, but in the end, it was the golden rule of business in the NFL: some of the best deals are the ones that are not made.
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