Labor Day NFL Realities

There is some serious negotiating going on in NFL front offices today for certain players. No, none of these players are household names to anyone but the most hardcore NFL fans. These are Practice Squad (“PS”) players, some of which are being recruited by several teams. The 2008 minimum for a PS player is $5,200 per week, which is the amount the vast majority of them – there are eight per team -- will receive. However, there are several negotiations going on now to lure PS players from their incumbent team to another. The recruiting is usually about opportunity but also, of course, about money. Coming out of today, there will be a few PS players making first-year active salary. That pay is 1/17th of $295,000, or $17,353 per week, compared to $5,200 a week (all amounts count against the Cap). More than anyone knows, PS players are valuable properties for NFL teams. Today’s activity – teams started signing their Practice Squads yesterday – is proof.

I have to shake my head at some of the names on the waiver wire, names that were once high-priced free agents that hit the jackpot in the first few days of free agency. Although it is proven that building a team with homegrown talent produces better results than quick-fix free agent signings, some teams never learn. Big free agent signings from the past couple years who are now out of work include the following: Roosevelt Colvin, Fernando Bryant, Joe Horn, Adam Archuleta, Marcus Pollard, Larry Triplett, Todd Wade and Ashley Lelie. These were the same names trumpeted by teams and media as front page splashy free agent signings. Now they are on the back pages in agate type as terminations. To think of what teams could have done with all that money that went to these players.

The waiver claims following the mandatory cutdown are revealing in showing the true “value” positions in the NFL. The majority of claims were of offensive and defensive lineman. Some positions are easier to find than others – wide receivers are the easiest position to find – but the big guys are the hardest to find, thus the interest in claiming. Case in point: Andy Alleman, a 2007 3rd round guard from Akron, was claimed by the following teams: Arizona, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Miami, New England and the New York Jets. Due to the claiming priority order, the worst record from last season – the Dolphins – were awarded Alleman. A defensive lineman we had in Green Bay, Daniel Muir, who hardly played for us but drew decent interest around the league and claimed by the Colts. 12 of the 22 claims were offensive or defensive lineman. These guys are hard to find.

The 45-man active roster bonus is becoming a popular way to either find a reasonable way to augment players’ contracts as well as a way to soften the blow of a pay cut. We started using them in 2006 with a couple players coming off injury-filled years, Ahman Green and Charles Woodson. All a player has to do to earn them is be active on game day; providing the club insurance due to injury. They have since become a staple of all veteran contracts at the Packers. Now, the Texans have used them in the reduction of Ahman’s contract there and the Seahawks have done the same with backup quarterback Charlie Frye. I suspect there will be a lot more of these.

Due to the vested veteran rules requiring full payment of salary for veterans on the 53-man roster opening day, most of these names will not be signed this week. Maybe next week, but not this week. Some plans may be foiled, however. The Jets may sign John Lynch and accept the one-year guarantee to disrupt the Patriots’ plan to re-sign Lynch after week one. There were teams interested in signing former Eagle Jerome McDougle next week, but the Giants did so immediately, accepting the guarantee in giving him a one-year, 1M deal.

Ricky Williams received an incentive-based extension of one year. As he is a former client and friend, I am happy for him. The Dolphins and the media are starting to see a side to Ricky that I knew was there and will make him successful. He strayed for a while and still has many other interests than football, but he can have a monster season for the Dolphins if he stays healthy and focused, two big “ifs”. I spent almost two years with Ricky and his family before he wanted me to work with Master P. I then went to the Packers while he went to Master P and negotiated the contract he is still playing under. I will have much more on Ricky to come….

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