Friday new$ and note$

Packers save on Harris

This week’s release of longtime Packer Al Harris illustrates a couple interesting money issues.

As a vested veteran, Harris would normally be entitled to termination pay – the balance of his salary – upon release by the Packers. However, since Harris started the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, he is not entitled to termination pay and the remaining balance of his $2.5 million salary ($1.18 million). Thus, the Packers, who acquired Harris in 2003 from the Eagles, have no further financial obligation to Harris.

Harris received his weekly paycheck of $147,000 (1/17th of his $2.5 million 2010 salary) from the Packers through the first nine weeks of the season. However, since he was never active for a game, he did not receive any of the $62,500 per game 45-man active roster bonuses (up to a maximum of $1 million for all 16 games). In his deal for the rest of the season with the Dolphins, Harris will earn about that same $147,000 amount per week should he now earn similar 45-man active roster bonuses on top of his salary.

I first inserted 45-man active roster bonuses in 2006 in deals with Ahman Green and Charles Woodson, both coming off seasons curtailed by injury. The Packers and many other teams now use the structure in all veteran contracts. It also is a way of dealing with players grumbling about new contracts, providing easily earned incentive money as long as the player was active and a compromise between tearing up their contracts and giving them new ones – as they wished – and doing nothing.

The one unanticipated problem with these clauses was at the end of the season when we had clinched playoff berths and coach Mike McCarthy – unaware of these clauses – decided to rest some starters who were otherwise healthy. Players and their agents were rumbling about those roster bonuses and we had to renegotiate a couple deals to make these players whole.

First-round treasure to trash

Harris, after clearing waivers, signed with the Dolphins, who created a roster spot by cutting ties with 2006 first-round draft pick Jason Allen. In a chain reaction, Allen was then claimed by the Texans, who had made an aggressive push to sign Harris before he agreed with the Dolphins.

An interesting clause in Allen’s first-round rookie contract protected the Dolphins from paying the guarantee if they released Allen due to a recurrence of hip injuries he had while in college at Tennessee. This clause certainly met resistance from his agent, as Allen did not sign until two weeks into his rookie training camp. As it turned out, Allen’s hip is not the reason for his release, rather the upgrade in Harris.

Pennington: expensive insurance policy

Speaking of interesting clauses in Dolphin contracts, the promotion of 34-year old Chad Pennington to starting quarterback will cost the team $3.25 million. Pennington’s contract has an escalator clause taking his salary from $2.5 million to $5.75 million in the event he takes over the starting quarterback position from Chad Henne, which he will do Sunday.

Pennington’s contract had another interesting clause, although now moot. On his one-year deal, were he traded from the Dolphins prior to the October 20 deadline, he would have received a “trade bonus” of $1.515 million.

With the two clauses above, Pennington could have earned an additional $4.765 million were he made the starter and traded prior to October 20. The Dolphins truly wanted Pennington to stay and may not have had full confidence in Henne.

With the release of Allen and the ascension of Pennington, it certainly can be said that – unlike other teams hoarding money this season-- that the Dolphins are willing to spend to improve the team mid-season.

And in a couple other notes:

  • The Thursday night games are receiving the expected grumbling from players about the lack of recovery and preparation time. One thought: wouldn't it make sense to have the Thursday night games a little earlier in the season schedule and have teams coming off byes participate? Then those teams would have ten days before the game and ten days after the game. For instance, 11 days ago was a Sunday where a couple pairs of divisional rivals had off: the 49ers and Rams; and the Jaguars and Titans. If one of those games were scheduled for last night, those teams would have both had ten days to prepare. Too simple? Not sure, but makes sense to me.
  • Would we be more surprised if the mounting allegations about improprieties of Heisman Trophy favorite Cam Newton were true or if they were not true? Sorry, but I think the latter. I have long since stopped believing that reports such as these are simply made up. There is too much out there not to have some fire to the smoke.
  • It struck me Sunday watching the Eagles against the Colts how Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson – even against the best football players on the planet – are just different: faster, quicker, more explosive, more dynamic, more turbo-charged, etc. They have game-changing abilities that are rare and special. The Eagles will have difficult and expensive decisions ahead on Vick, whose contract expires after this season but has loyalty to the Eagles as one of only a couple teams showing interest after his release from jail, and Jackson, whose contract expires after 2011.
  • The Brett Favre-Jenn Sterger—New York Jets situation continues to percolate, much to the dismay of Favre and the Jets. Although it initially appeared the inquiry would be dealt with quickly and quietly, it is now in the news again with Sterger meeting NFL Security for three hours yesterday and turning over information and evidence on the matter. Now the process will continue as Commissioner Goodell and his staff evaluate determine whether to discipline Favre, who has had an eventful season only halfway through it. My sense is that the slow pace of this inquiry and investigation will continue, perhaps with a re-interview of Favre and/or Jets’ personnel after reviewing the new evidence. As always with news about Brett, stay tuned.

Follow me on Twitter at adbrandt.

Upcoming Games

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