A fire sale of vets on draft weekend
Some business notes and thoughts from the first-ever three-day NFL Draft:
• The draft featured fire sales of veteran players who were scheduled for the guillotine this week. Among them were Kirk Morrison, LenDale White, Leon Washington, Jason Campbell and Bryant McFadden. All were traded for little more than a ham sandwich (which White ate).
The question people always ask is why would teams trade anything for these players when they can sign them if/when they get released. The reason is that it eliminates the possibility of competing for their services. Would other teams have chased these guys? The trading teams certainly create perceived leverage by suggesting so. Of course, one player who did not reach the trade market was Alan Faneca of the Jets, the treasure from the 2008 free-agent class, now shed after signing a contract worth $23 million guaranteed. Faneca refused a pay cut, knowing he has $5.25 million remaining on his guarantee, an amount no one wanted to trade for.
And what a guarantee it is. There’s no offset clause in the contract between the Jets and Faneca, meaning any money he receives from a new team is on top of, not offset against, that $5.25M. Again, Faneca was a splashy free agent signing with the Jets from the Steelers two years ago and had used a lot of leverage. Kudos to agent Rick Smith and Priority Sports for another guarantee without an offset, following the $12.65M windfall for Jake Delhomme.
• Maybe now the chatter about the Redskins trading Albert Haynesworth can be put to rest. Daniel Snyder might overpay players, but he’s made a fortune in business by not investing in assets only to give them away for pennies on the dollar. With the bulk of Haynesworth’s guarantee already paid, the Redskins might as well reap any benefit he has rather than give his now-reasonable contract away.
• We’ve heard more about some of these players over the last few days/weeks than we may hear about them over their careers. Some will wash out, some will toil for off-the-radar teams in anonymity. So for many of them, this time was the height of their national exposure.
• Tough to be the Buccaneers’ or Jaguars’ incumbent defensive tackles today. With those teams’ top two picks being defensive tackles, Tampa’s in the top 35 picks of the draft, their job security was not good. Both the Bucs’ Chris Hovan and the Jaguars’ John Henderson, after being shopped all weekend, were released on Monday.
• I thought the most surprising tender offer made in this year’s restricted free agency market (of which there was no market) was the placement of the “super tender” of a first- and third-round compensation level on Panthers quarterback Matt Moore. Of course, the next day the team jettisoned Jake Delhomme. Now they’ve given him competition in the form of Jimmy Clausen, who gets to compete for a starting job making about the same amount of guaranteed money as Moore ($3 million).
• We hear it’s a strong possibility that this may be the last year of the rookie compensation system as both the NFL and the players association are ready to sacrifice the incoming rookies. However, the NFL may not want to change the system too much. The present rookie pool provides hundreds of players at reasonable cost to balance spending on top veterans. Yes, spending at the top is a problem, but most rookie contracts provide great value. In this case, management should be careful what it wishes for.
• Speaking of which, we may have the first player traded for a draft pick that doesn’t exist. Jason Campbell was traded to the Raiders for a fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft. The Collective Bargaining Agreement – which includes the 2011 Draft -- expires this year. As for the 2011 season, let alone the 2012 draft, all bets are off. We hope (expect) for an extension, but it’s interesting to speculate on what compensation the Redskins would receive from the Raiders for Campbell’s services if there’s no draft to send a fourth-rounder.
• And no comments about any draft would be complete without a mention of our favorite subject, JaMarcus Russell. As noted, the Raiders could shed him at a cost of $3M guaranteed, but have paid him $36M. Again, perhaps never in the NFL has so much been paid for so little. The pay cut discussion is ongoing here.
• Finally, wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear one head coach or general manager actually say something other than they got exactly the players they wanted, and were surprised they were still there? Chances are we’ll never see this quote: “The guys we liked were all gone, but we’ll see how these guys we were stuck with pan out. Hey, it’s all a crapshoot anyway.”
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