Bubba Franks: end of a nice career

The New York Jets parted ways with an old friend this week, releasing Bubba Franks. Just as their one-year experiment with Brett Favre ended earlier this offseason, the Jets have also ended their relationship with the tight end Favre played with for eight years with the Packers in addition to their year together as Jets.

After a year in which Bubba caught only six balls for 47 yards, it probably wasn’t a tough decision. This is another case of a team realizing a player wasn’t going to make the team and deciding to make the move before any possibility of injury. Without Favre, Bubba’s staunchest advocate, around to support his continued existence on the roster, he was “Jettisoned.”

The Next Odoms?

Bubba – or Daniel, his given name, which we jokingly called him -- is a good guy and was a popular player in the locker room in Green Bay. I remember when we picked him in the first round of the 2000 NFL Draft. He was not our first choice in the weeks prior to the draft, but as with most situations, timing is everything. Our starting tight end at the time, Mark Chmura, was found in a compromising position with a teenage girl five days before the draft, necessitating a change in plans. With our top target, John Abraham, taken by the Jets right before us, GM Ron Wolf pulled the trigger on a big tight end from Big Springs, Texas. I remember Ron comparing Bubba to a tight end who played 12 years for the Broncos, Riley Odoms (with four Pro Bowls on Odoms’ resume, we would happily take that).

The Offseason Home

After his first season in Green Bay, Bubba left his townhouse and went back to Miami for the offseason. When I say left, I mean he just closed the door and left the brutal Green Bay winter behind. While he was away, the pipes froze and burst, resulting in considerable damage to his apartment. That took a bit of our time – and several lawyers – to sort out the mess.

Speaking of Bubba leaving town in the offseason, that was an issue with players from warmer climes, especially those from the U, or the University of Miami. Bubba, like all the guys from Miami, was beholden to his workouts with the Hurricanes’ strength and conditioning coach, Andreu Swasey, and loved the camaraderie with his teammates such as Edgerrin James (who appeared to be the ringleader of the gang down there), Ed Reed, Reggie Wayne, Clinton Portis, Jeremy Shockey and another of our players, Najeh Davenport. This was a problem we addressed once Mike McCarthy came on board as coach in 2006 and made a commitment to have near-perfect attendance in the offseason program. I negotiated all contracts to incentivize players to work out in the area during the offseason. Bubba reluctantly became a regular in Green Bay after that.

The Second Contract

After Bubba’s five-year rookie contract expired following the 2004 season, we were unable to come to common ground on a contract and placed the transition tag on him, which gave us the right to match any offer he might receive, although without compensation. I thought this would be the best way to see if Bubba was worth the value his agent claimed since we had a different idea of his value. Bubba never received a sniff as a transition player, and we ultimately came to a seven-year, $28-million deal, which, for our purposes, was a three-year, $9M deal (he was released after three years).

Bubba’s negotiation is a classic example of the problem for team negotiators when it comes to personnel discussions. His agent, Gene Mato -- a nice guy who also had the bliss and blight of representing Manny Ramirez – always claimed that Bubba was right below Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates and compared favorably to players such as Todd Heap, Jason Witten, Shockey and others, even though his statistics did not bear that out (except for touchdowns).

It’s Business, Not Personal

One thing I’ve tried to never do is enter a debate about whether a player is “better” than others who have been rewarded with contracts. Bubba’s agent kept talking about Bubba being as good as or better than those players, and this often happens in a negotiation. I try to stay away from those conversations as best I can for several reasons: One, I have never been a scout and am in no position to evaluate our player against others. Two, every agent believes his player to be a higher level than he is; that’s a given, and there’s no point debating it. And three, anything I say will go back to the player, especially if it can be perceived as a slight regarding his abilities. Negotiation is an art, and one of the nuances is avoiding the “who’s better” debate with agents since there’s little to be gained from them.

This might be the end of the NFL road for Daniel “Bubba” Franks (unless a certain player signs with a certain team in the Packers’ division and successfully lobbies again for him). If so, he leaves behind a solid career of nine years, eight with one team. The vast majority of players would take that.

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