Friday new$ and note$

Receiving bang for the buck

There has been a graveyard full of bad contracts spent in recent years at the wide receiver position. Deals that immediately spring to mind as money not well-spent include free agent deals for Javon Walker in Oakland, Ernest Wilford in Miami and Laveranues Coles and Antonio Bryant, both with the Bengals.

A look at the production of the top 15 wide receivers statistically thus far this season shows a mixed bag of solid results between players with high pedigrees of past performance for their current team, a couple recycled players now producing, and a couple of "who?" players that have bounded from anonymity.

Players who have been rewarded in the past couple of years with contract extensions such as Roddy White, Marques Colston, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, and Andre Johnson are still producing at a high level. Also, former first-round picks Calvin Johnson and Hakeem Nicks are living up to their high pedigree, although with a couple injury issues along the way.

Beyond the expected names that have been rewarded financially in recent years, there is old reliable Reggie Wayne, second in the league (to White) in total receptions. Wayne has been vocal about his frustration while he waits for a new contract, although has continued to perform at the highest level while getting in line behind Peyton Manning for a new deal.

Now leading the NFL in reception yardage is Brandon Lloyd, who once signed a huge contract with the Redskins after being traded from the 49ers. Lloyd has been quite a bargain for the Broncos, playing for a $500,000 bonus and a $755,000 minimum salary with another year remaining on his deal.

Similarly, Mike Williams, who "busted" after being the Lions' top pick several years ago and has not played since 2007, has provided good value for the Seahawks at a minimum contract of $545,000. And the Bills' Steve Johnson has 52 catches and 728 yards so far for his $470,000 this year.

Perhaps the biggest bargain at the position this year is the Rams' Danny Amendola, now sixth in the NFL with 60 receptions playing for $395,000.

A final note on productive receivers: one of the most productive, albeit for one of the worst teams, has been old friend Terrell Owens who, despite his baggage and being part of perhaps the worst team in the NFL today, has been a pleasant surprise financially, now 3rd in the NFL in reception yardage and playing for $2 million, with another $2 million in incentives appearing very attainable.

Eventful week in labor negotiations

The rhetoric was ramped up earlier this week between the NFL and the NFLPA. Although there were some quiet for a while, which in my mind indicates progress, that has been replaced by a new round of public bickering as we mark 100 days until the end of the current CBA.

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and NFLPA President Kevin Mawae took their message to the media, fans, other unions and even elected officials, making the point that a lockout will be damaging to not only NFL players, but also tens of thousands of ancillary workers and businesses.

The NFL has been annoyed at the public posturing by Smith and the union. Up until this point, however, it has kept its frustration private. That changed this week, with a response through its web site, with a pointed response that read in part: “Now that the union leaders have concluded their decertification ‘going-out-of-business sale,’ arranged for form letters to be sent to NFL owners by other unions, and issued press releases about their letter-writing campaign to mayors and governors, we are hopeful that they might find more time to talk to us.”

Interestingly, after this public bickering, there was actually some progress. Reports indicate a meeting between the two sides on Wednesday represented actual meaningful and important discussions. Leading the agenda as usual was the 18-game schedule, which I have long thought to be the game-changing issue in these negotiations.

The bad news is that this negotiation appears to have a long way to go with 100 days left before it really matters. The good news is that there are 100 days left before it really matters. There is no urgency to the situation now, despite the logistical problems the uncertainty is causing. These negotiations will get truly serious at some point, but probably not in 2010.

I’ll be taking you inside the bargaining with an in-depth look at the issues on the table in a multi-part series coming soon.

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