Wednesday whys: Was Osi’s snit about money?

Why was Osi Umenyiora’s one-day absence from the Giants perhaps about more than a flare-up with a coach?

Sorry for being jaded, but after being in the business of pro football for so long, I have to believe that Umenyiora’s one-day snit was related to his contract, one that he perceives has been outdated for some time. The greatest myth of all quotes is, “It’s not about the money,” which translates to, “It’s all about the money.” It usually is, especially when the player says it’s not.

Umenyiora signed an extension with the Giants for $41 million over six years in 2005, a high-end deal at the time. Not long after the ink was dry on that contract, the marketplace changed for quality defensive linemen. Osi took notice and, although he has not resorted to any dramatic stances, has expressed a low rumble of discontent since.

For players who signed long extensions in 2004 and 2005, there tend to be issues. Even if the player has a strong sense of security about the contract, he’s constantly reminded by the whisper crew – other players, competing agents, hangers-on -- that he is underpaid compared to extensions signed in 2006 and beyond.

The NFL salary cap went up dramatically when the Collective Bargaining Agreement was extended in 2006. Here are the recent amounts:

2004: $80.5M
2005: $87.5M
2006: $102.5M
2007: $109M
2008: $116M
2009: $123M

Players such as Umenyiora who received extensions before 2006 have taken note and expressed various degrees of discontent.

It’s not known how much Umenyiora was fined, although missing practice could cost him close to $9,000. The Giants set a strong precedent with fines for Plaxico Burress last year; this is another opportunity for coach Tom Coughlin to set a tone.

Umenyiora’s situation may be fine and his brief absence much ado about nothing. Also, the Giants do a nice job with their contract management. Having said this, something tells me we may not have heard the end of it.

Why are “retirements” like the one Tedy Bruschi of the Patriots announced this week not really retirements at all?

The vast majority of NFL players do not retire voluntarily. Most are “retired” by their teams via phone call from someone on the personnel staff to hand in their playbooks, a process that ended hundreds of contracts Tuesday and will do the same this weekend. In some cases, players not only meet with the personnel staff but also with either their position coaches and/or coordinators upon their departure. And in rare cases, the club’s head coach will visit with the player upon his release, especially if the team wants to get a young player back on the practice squad or has genuine interest in bringing him back later in the year.

Cases like Bruschi’s are even a smaller minority. These are players who are inextricably linked to the franchise and strongly identified with the brand. In these cases, there is a more formal sendoff such as the one Monday that included effusive praise from coach Bill Belichick.

Bruschi was certainly deserving of such praise. He is one of the most intense individuals I have ever met, as I remember negotiating with him to come to the Packers years ago when he was a free agent – he was acting as his own agent – and came away with great respect for him as a negotiator (he was honest that he was unlikely to leave New England, even if we offered more money).

What is interesting, however, is that these flowery tributes are mostly to players that would gladly stay on the team if asked. The team, however, has decided to go “in a different direction” and would like to keep everything on a high level rather than have to place the player on the waiver wire. Over the past couple of years, we’ve heard the Patriots extol the virtues of players such as Willie McGinest, Rodney Harrison, Troy Brown and Bruschi (who was in training camp practicing with the second team). I’m sure all of them would have continued to play if the Patriots had asked, which they didn’t.

There are examples all over the league of teams speaking in glowing terms of players as if they’re signing them to a big new contract rather than (as nicely as possible) asking them to leave. In Green Bay, we dealt with these situations with players such as LeRoy Butler, Dorsey Levens, William Henderson, Santana Dotson, Earl Dotson, Frank Winters, Gilbert Brown, Antonio Freeman and others. And, of course, there was that situation with a former quarterback who decided he didn’t really want to leave but had no choice.

The teams that no longer employ players such as Derrick Brooks, Deuce McAllister, Marvin Harrison, Warrick Dunn and others speak in shimmering terms about them much in the same way the Patriots did about Bruschi. These players would much prefer another contract than the kind words.

Why did Ricky Williams not use an agent in negotiating an extension to his contract?

Ricky Williams is as different a person as I’ve met in professional sports. His retirement a few years ago to travel in India and Asia didn’t surprise me in the least. His decision to come to an agreement with Bill Parcells without the use of an agent is certainly fitting for him. He has been through several agents; now he’s representing himself, par for the course for Ricky.

How do I know so much? I was his agent once -- his first agent, in fact, the one he had before he left for the inimitable Master P. I spent two years working with Ricky and will never forget that time, even if it ended with him choosing a rapper over me to represent him with the Saints.

More on my life with Ricky in a future column.

Follow me on Twitter: adbrandt

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