Wednesday whys: Discipline for Larry Johnson

Why did the Chiefs send Larry Johnson home in spite of his apology?

The Chiefs want Johnson to cool his heels a while in light of his criticism of his coach and his anti-gay slurs this week. While Johnson sits at home, the team will evaluate its options. It’s likely that some how, some way, their future will not include the running back.

And why should it? The player is obviously past his prime, and the team is burdened with an albatross of a contract it gave to him in 2007. He has moved from treasure to potential trash in two years for the Chiefs, who rewarded him with an extension despite his penchant for being high-maintenance. Now he’s had to apologize to the team and community for the second time in two years.

It was a surprise that Johnson was kept on the team at all at the beginning of the season since last spring an arbitrator ruled that the Chiefs did not owe him $3.5 million in guaranteed salary as a result of his willful misconduct last year. Once Johnson made the opening-day roster, though, he became entitled to his salary as a vested player.

The Chiefs are likely having several discussions with the NFL Management Council about what discipline they can impose and for how long and how much. They are also certainly discussing their options in getting back some of that money previously paid to Johnson. The most frequently used phrase in their offices this week is probably "conduct detrimental," or CD.

According to Article VIII of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, a team can fine a player one week’s salary and suspend him without pay for a maximum of four weeks. The Chiefs and the league will weigh that against the arguments Johnson would have in a grievance, one of which is his well-crafted apology.

The Chiefs are probably also talking to the league about whether the NFL, in addition or in lieu of the Chiefs, would have an interest in disciplining Johnson at their level. If the league imposes discipline, appeals are heard by the commissioner or his appointee. In the event the team imposes discipline, appeals by Johnson would be heard by an impartial arbitrator.

So while the Chiefs’ front office and the NFL weigh their respective options, Johnson waits and his coach tries to answer questions as vaguely as possible. Stay tuned.

Why is the Jets’ signing of Justin Miller related to the case in which the 49ers accuse the Jets of tampering with Michael Crabtree?

At the heart of the tampering investigation into whether the Jets acted improperly with regard to Crabtree will be discussions between the Jets and Crabtree’s agent, Eugene Parker.

Parker, of course, represents many NFL players and has a long history with the Jets from his representation of Curtis Martin. He also represents current Jets tight end Dustin Keller and current and former Jet Justin Miller, just signed to replace Leon Washington on the team’s roster.

In the league’s investigation of phone conversations between the Jets and Parker during the period of the alleged tampering, questions will be asked about what the two parties would have talked about other than Crabtree. One of those topics will be Miller, a former second-round pick of the Jets who made the Pro Bowl in 2007, was released in 2008 and was looking for work in 2009.

Now signed again to play for the Jets, Miller’s name will certainly come up as a topic of conversation between the team and Parker.

Why did Ahman Green sign with the Packers for $1 over the minimum salary?

Had Green signed for the minimum salary, the contract would have qualified as a minimum salary benefit (MSB) contract, paying Green the minimum salary for a 10-year player of $845,000 but only counting on the cap in the amount of the minimum salary for a two-year player of $460,000.

Like a lot of teams, however, the Packers are not interested in saving almost $400,000 of cap room. With an uncapped year ahead and potentially no ability to roll over cap room into 2010, teams are looking for ways to use, not lose, their cap room. The Bucs found a way, trading Gaines Adams; the Rams found a way, trading Will Witherspoon; the Cowboys (DeMarcus Ware) and Bears (Jay Cutler) found a way, rewarding their top players. The Packers don't need to save that money, so they spent it by adding a dollar to the minimum, thereby making themselves not eligible for that benefit and counting the full amount.

As for Green, for whatever it's worth, he can say that he’s not making minimum salary.

I'll have more on Ahman and his re-signing with the Packers and playing against his former quarterback this weekend as the game approaches.

Why, at the start of the World Series in baseball, should we survey the financial scene in that sport?

Baseball is the one major professional league without a salary cap. Despite the best efforts of management, the strong MLB Players Association has successfully resisted the imposition of a cap, preferring another three-letter word in its place -- “tax.” Without such a mechanism to level the playing field, we have what we have in baseball: a payroll disparity of over $150 million between the top-paying team, the New York Yankees, and the lowest-paying team, the Florida Marlins.
The Yankees open the World Series tonight with the following payroll facts:

A payroll of $201.5M for a roster of 25. In the NFL, there are a couple teams over $150M in payroll at the top of the spending tree and, of course, rosters can be -- including injured players -- over 70 players.

A gap of over $50M between the Yankees and the second-highest spending team, the New York Mets.

An expenditure in free agency on three players -- Mark Teixera, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett -- of $423.5M in contract value. And unlike the NFL, that amount is fully guaranteed. There are not three contracts in the NFL, let alone one team, that have a combined value of that amount.

The prospect of an uncapped year in the NFL in 2010 could potentially mean a team could decide to spend at this level. Certainly the lack of a cap has allowed the Yankees to outspend teams on an annual basis. Whether that could or would happen in the NFL is much less certain.
While big spending in the NFL recently has not resulted in correlative success on the field (see Redskins, Washington, and Raiders, Oakland), the Yankees are poised to open the World Series with the best team money can buy.

And my Pet Peeve Why of the Week:

Why is the NFL’s replay review so much longer and delayed than the system used in college football?

In watching college games last weekend, I was struck by how quickly calls were reviewed and ruled on by the referee. He simply put on a headset, had a brief communication upstairs and a ruling was made. No timeout, no trotting to the sideline, no staring under the hood of the camera, no waiting around. Why can’t the NFL do that? If college football can get it right and without delay, why can’t that happen on Sundays?

Join me today at 3:30 p.m. eastern for a live chat at the Post. I’ll be taking questions about any and all topics.

Follow me on Twitter: adbrandt

Upcoming Games

Aug 4th, 8:00 PM

Jacksonville +1.5 -110

Las Vegas -1.5 -110


Aug 11th, 7:00 PM

NY Giants

New England


Aug 11th, 7:30 PM