Tuesday, March 5, 2013

1 comments MMQB Review: Contractual Issues Edition

Peter King interviewed Brian Polian last week regarding Manti Te'o and Polian said that Te'o is a good person, he just trusts too many people and is a bit naive about the world. I'm guessing Polian didn't think about the idea Te'o could have problems dealing with new-found friends and more money upon entering the NFL. It may not happen, but a naive, trusting person could definitely run into issues when making the move from the more sheltered Notre Dame environment to the NFL. A few weeks ago, Peter seemed to indicate he thought Joe Flacco may end up being franchise-tagged and then eventually traded. For some reason when Ozzie Newsome and Steve Bisciotti said that certain veteran players won't be re-signed, Peter thought that included the Ravens not re-signing Joe Flacco and trading for a veteran quarterback like Alex Smith or Matt Flynn. It turns out the Ravens re-signed Joe Flacco and didn't look to go in a different direction at the quarterback position. It's not shocking to me, but I'm still not sure of Peter's line of thought when he stated the Ravens may let Flacco go. This week in MMQB, Peter talks about Tom Brady's contract situation (a lot), Joe Flacco's contract situation, and has some criticism for people who dare to talk on their phone while outside exercising.

I'll get to the news of the week in the never-ending NFL news cycle in a few moments, but let's start with the elephant in the room in the wake of the Tom Brady contract. A majority of you seem skeptical (and that's putting it mildly) that Brady did a good thing for the Patriots the other day.

Here we go. Let's separate everyone into either the "Tom Brady did a noble thing to give up money and was completely altruistic in doing so" camp or the "Tom Brady was only looking out for himself and this contract extension only serves to make Tom Brady more wealthy at the expense of the Patriots" camp. Really, there's no middle ground is there? That's no fun to see there being some middle ground. There's no way this contract extension can serve as a way to give Brady guaranteed money while also helping the Patriots out.

Mostly, I like how Peter uses a large part of MMQB to allow Robert Kraft to explain the deal. Obviously it was a great story, but I can't stop getting the feeling that some NFL owners and coaches see Peter as their mouthpiece of sorts. Certain owners and GM's know they can call him and he will give them space in MMQB to give their side of an issue. Peter gave Robert Kraft a lot of space in MMQB for quotes and a forum to explain the contract negotiations in detail.

This is what I hear from people in the media business and on Twitter, by and large: The three-year, $27 million contract extension's a phony deal.

Or, put another way: He'll never play for $7 million, total, in 2015. The quarterback and the Pats have to have some agreement -- tacit, at least -- to re-do the deal if Brady's still Brady then.

I never even thought the Patriots and Brady would have some kind of agreement to re-do the deal. Anyway, what does it matter if they do? It's not like the Patriots are tampering or circumventing the salary cap by promising Brady a bigger deal down the road. This criticism makes not of sense and it's frankly stupid. Who cares if there is an unspoken agreement to pay Brady down the road? I don't get either why it matters if Brady took less money to be altruistic or isn't really taking less money.

This, first, from the man who birthed the idea of the Brady extension and broached it to Brady in painstaking detail when they flew alone together from Massachusetts to Los Angeles the week after the Patriots' season ended:

"No, no, no,'' Patriots owner Robert Kraft told me. "This is a real deal. Look at our track record. We don't do fake deals. The contract we have with Tom Brady is a real contract we will both live by."

Ok, well this is stupid to expect Kraft to answer this question honestly. Obviously if there is a secret deal in place Robert Kraft isn't going to admit to it. Peter seems to think, "I don't know if the Patriots have agreed to a secret deal with Brady down the road. Let me ask the owner of the Patriots if there is a deal....well, Robert Kraft denies it so it must be true there is no agreement to re-do the deal in the future."

Of course Kraft would deny this if there was a secret handshake deal. It wouldn't be a secret if Kraft admitted there was a deal in place for the future.

Kraft said he had "been thinking about this for three or four years. I was probably wearing my fan hat as much as anything else. I just didn't want to ever see this become like Joe Montana leaving San Francisco, Emmitt Smith leaving Dallas, Brett Favre leaving Green Bay, Peyton Manning leaving Indianapolis.

I would strongly argue that three of these examples are bad examples. Dumping Montana led to Steve Young and the 49ers winning another Super Bowl. Dumping Favre led to a Super Bowl victory for the Packers and dumping Manning has led the Colts to turning their team around quickly and having a promising young quarterback in place. I get what Kraft is saying, but I could also see this statements as reasoning to not hang on to Brady too long. Learn from three of these four examples and move on when the time feels right to do so.

So Kraft and Brady boarded the plane five weeks ago, and Kraft laid out the rough vision he had for the deal. "We had a lot of time to talk,'' Kraft said. "Six hours." Kraft wasn't exact with the terms that day, but he got the idea across. The Patriots, essentially, would convert all the money in the last two years of his current deal to guaranteed money in the form of bonuses to be paid out between now and 2015. The Patriots would add $3 million to the deal now. In exchange, Brady would extend the deal three years for significantly less money than the market would yield if he were free two years from now -- it turned out to be $7 million in 2015, $8 million in 2016 and $9 million in 2017 -- with one valuable proviso. If Brady were healthy enough, year by year, to continue playing after the 2014 season, the salaries in each of his last three years would be guaranteed in the event of injury. 

It's a good deal for Brady just like it is a good deal for the Patriots. Brady gets guaranteed money as long he stays healthy and the Patriots get to keep a franchise quarterback below market value. It's only up to Tom Brady to decide if this was a dumb contract, and he signed it, so clearly he seems happy.

When Brady and Kraft parted that day, Brady said he'd think about it, and discuss it with his agent, Don Yee, and his family. "I credit Don Yee for being supportive and not talking Tommy out of it,'' Kraft said.

There is something to be said for staying with the organization you have played your entire NFL career for and also staying with the only head coach you have ever played for. Brady knows the organization and I have to imagine being a free agent after playing your entire career in one place is somewhat a pain in the ass in terms of the logistics involved with moving and just getting a feel for a new organization. I would bet Peyton Manning has given Brady a heads-up on what being a free agent and joining a new organization can be like.

Tom knows that it's not like whatever we don't pay him we're putting in the Kraft family pocket. He gets it, and now he's rooting for us to make the right decisions in building the team. By the way, I have heard that it's been reported Tom made demands about who he wanted us to sign. Absolutely not. It never happened.

And again, if Brady had made demands on who he wanted the Patriots to sign then Robert Kraft would most likely not acknowledge this. I know (hope) Peter is smart enough to understand this.

You know, I told Kraft that there will be many who don't buy the blue-skies-and-sunny-days story line here. They'll be waiting to see what the Pats do in the spring of 2015, when so many are sure they'll rewrite the contract to make Brady the fourth-highest-paid quarterback, not the 24th.

Tough, hard-hitting question. I imagine Peter followed up this question by saying, "Not that I would believe that of course Mr. Kraft. Would you like me to dedicate the entire MMQB to what you have to say about Tom Brady's new contract or get you a warm towel and massage to make you more comfortable?"

"These people don't know the relationship between Tommy and this team,'' he said. "Maybe they hate the Patriots, or they're jealous.

An excellent way to ensure some people continue to hate the Patriots is to state those who don't believe Tom Brady was being altruistic are jealous of the Patriots. It's not like a person who has a neutral perspective on the Patriots could EVER disagree with anything Robert Kraft says or see anything but charity when discussing Brady's contract extension. Only those who are jealous of the Patriots could fail to see Brady's altruistic greatness.

I understand the naysayers are out there, but we want to build a team capable of winning every year, and while this is not perfect in every way, we think this will help us get there."

But the naysayers could have a point when asking why Tom Brady would leave (what they see as) a lot of money on the table. Generally, players like to maximize their value, so you can see why some are speculative of Brady's kindness.

The guarantees. Keep in mind Brady was going to make $30 million in cash in the next two years, not guaranteed. Now he'll make $33 million, guaranteed. 

Essentially, Brady is betting on himself to be productive and healthy. Is this a bad move? Who knows, but I guess we'll see.

Brady has $33 million guaranteed today. The $7 million, $8 million and $9 million salaries in 2015, '16 and '17 will be guaranteed, but only if Brady enters each of those league seasons healthy.

So as long as Brady is physically healthy enough to play, he will make $24 million over three years from 2015-2017. That's not a terrible deal for him when he is approaching the age of 40.

My feeling is, out of principle, it's pretty unlikely the Patriots will re-do the deal in 2015, even if Brady's one of the lowest-paid starting passers in the league. He knew what he was getting into when he signed it. But we'll see.

Peter believes something that a person has told him. Who saw that coming?

Finally, I understand the skepticism about a player doing what Brady did, but looking at history, and listening to Kraft, I wouldn't count on this deal adding any new money in the next three seasons. Still want to debate it? I'll be happy to run your best emails in my Tuesday column, with my responses.

Dear Peter King,

It is not a debate when you respond to an email someone sends you and then the conversation between you and the emailer is cut off completely. An actual debate would require much more back-and-forth than just one response by each party to the topic being discussed. You have the bully pulpit of writing for Sports Illustrated and never have to respond to a response to your response. That's not a debate. That's answering a reader's email.


On the other side of the salary spectrum comes Joe Flacco.

Joe Flacco is just a greedy-ass bitch in the opinion of Tom Brady.

News broke from Jay Glazer Friday that Flacco and the Ravens had agreed on a six-year, $120.6 million contract -- $20.1 million a year, an average of $100,000 more per season than the previous highest-paid player in football, Drew Brees.

But to be fair, good portions of Brees' salary goes towards paying defensive players for knocking opposing players out of the game or injuring opposing players. So Brees' take-home pay is much, much less than Flacco's take-home pay.

The cap numbers in the first two years of the deal are approximately $6.8 million and $14.8 million, which should allow the Ravens to keep a player or two they really want to keep, such as wideout Anquan Boldin and left tackle Bryant McKinnie.

What? I thought Peter said this couldn't be done? I thought Peter said the Ravens wouldn't re-sign Flacco so they could re-sign their key free agents? My world is spinning and everything that I found to be true is no longer true. 

I think defensive end Paul Kruger, a free agent, will get big money somewhere and won't return. I think it's looking more and more likely that the free-agent inside linebacker the team would like to keep, Dannell Ellerbe, will get a bigger offer elsewhere than the Ravens would be willing to pay. If so, he'll likely leave too.

As usual, I disagree with Peter King. The Ravens have stated they would get rid of veteran free agents and work to keep their younger players. I think the Ravens will try to re-sign Kruger and Ellerbe before signing Boldin and McKinnie to new contracts. I could be wrong and Peter could be right, but he wasn't right about the Ravens possibly not re-signing Joe Flacco, and the Ravens not re-signing McKinnie/Boldin makes sense given the plan Newsome and Bisciotti spoke of a few weeks ago to let veteran free agents go.

The Ravens and Flacco were going to leave the 2012 salary as is ($6.76 milion) and extend the deal five years, through 2017. The two sides were agonizingly close -- the Ravens wanted to pay Flacco $15.5 million in the last year of the deal, unguaranteed, and Flacco's agent, Joe Linta, wanted $17.5 million, unguaranteed. Keep in mind there's a very good chance the last year of the deal wouldn't have been kept intact anyway; it's likely the deal would have been re-done before that season. When the two sides met for the final time to try to get it done, the Ravens were insistent on their 2017 number. Linta probably would have accepted if they'd split the difference at $16.5 million. But the Ravens -- and who could blame them? -- thought they had extended themselves for a player who hadn't been a 4,000-yard quarterback yet.

Plus, they were just going to trade for Alex Smith or Matt Flynn anyway, right Peter? Still, it sounds weird that $2 million was the difference in the negotiations. Seems like small potatoes to me.

In retrospect, the July 2012 position of the Ravens seems more understandable than Flacco's. Only three players in football would have been higher paid than Flacco under the Baltimore five-year extension offer; that seems more than fair.

And sure, the Ravens now probably wish they acceded to Linta's number last summer. But hindsight in contract talks is always 20-20. There's no way anyone (other than Flacco, maybe) could have forecast what Flacco did this postseason. So it's unfair to castigate Baltimore for not caving last year; I can't think of any team, given the same situation, that would have caved.

I don't know why anyone would question the Ravens for not offering Flacco a contract that made him the fourth-highest paid player in the NFL. I don't think many people saw Flacco having the postseason that he ended up having nor expected him to get a $120 million contract after the 2012 season.

I just like the fact that the underdog quarterback won the Super Bowl, and the faithful agent backed him, and both were rewarded.

Let's not call Joe Flacco an underdog quarterback. He was drafted in the first round and was paid $8 million last year. Keep the enthusiasm in-check just a little bit. This isn't the case of the little guy getting rewarded. This is the case of a first round quarterback getting a large contract extension because he had a fantastic postseason. Coming out of Delaware, maybe Flacco was the underdog quarterback, but not now.

"He's not going to win any games for you. He's a defensive back who will shut down the [opponent's] top receiver, but the ball is not in his hands. The Jets need more than a top corner. They need some pieces. If he gives them the value to get those pieces, then move him."

-- ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson, on the possibility of the Jets trading Darrelle Revis, to Bob Glauber of Newsday.

Now, I've always liked Keyshawn Johnson. Hard worker when he played, unselfish blocker, etc. But this is one of the most short-sighted things I've heard a TV analyst say in a long time, and that's covering a lot of ground.

Peter King loves himself some Darrelle Revis. Actually, Peter just loves to overvalue cornerbacks. 

He's not going to win any games for you. Let's go back to the Jets' playoff win at San Diego in the 2009 season, the one in which the Jets amassed all of 262 total yards. The receivers Revis covered that day caught one ball -- for minus-four yards. Next year: Jets over the Bengals two straight weeks, once to end the regular season, once to start the playoffs; Revis held Chad Ochocinco to two catches for 28 yards in those eight quarters. Against Indy in the 2010 playoffs, Revis held Reggie Wayne to one catch for one yard when he covered him.

I get that Revis is at the top of his profession, but the Jets gave up 262 total yards against the Chargers because other defensive players played well also. It wasn't all Darrelle Revis. Revis has been fantastic in the past, but he's (potentially) holding out once again. Keyshawn's point was that the Jets have other holes on the roster they should work on filling and giving Darrelle Revis a contract extension when coming off a major injury  probably isn't the best allocation of resources. Johnson is saying if Revis can bring back some good players then it may be worth it to trade him. If Revis doesn't bring back good value on the trade market then choose to keep him. Johnson is saying the Jets need offensive players and a quarterback. If trading Revis gets the Jets those two things, then they should consider trading him.

But don't insult the readers of Newsday by saying defensive players aren't going to win games, implying, of course, that the only players who should make really big money are offensive players. Watch the game. Watch the games in 2012, and you'll see how, with the rise of the mobile quarterback, cornerbacks are going to be more valuable than ever because they'll be on islands with the Calvin Johnsons and Andre Johnsons more, without the regularity of safety help.

I can't believe I am semi-defending Keyshawn Johnson, but he wasn't saying only offensive players should get big money. Johnson was saying Revis is coming off a major injury, probably wants another contract, and the Jets have quite a few needs. The Jets have quite a few holes on the roster. If trading Revis makes the team as a whole better, then trade him.

Peter takes it so personally whenever someone criticizes Darrelle Revis. It's really odd. It's like Peter can't accept that making Revis happy isn't the Jets only offseason goal.

According to ESPN's Trey Wingo, first-round draft prospect Barkevious Mingo has a brother named Hughtavious Mingo, and another brother named Hugh Mingo.

Peter King thinks minorities are so funny in how they name their children!

Twice on Sunday in Manhattan this happened: I was walking my dog, Bailey, on the East Side of town, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. And on each walk I saw a person jogging -- guy in the morning, woman in the afternoon -- while talking on a phone, hands free, into a wire draping from the ears.

It's infuriating when a person comes to a counter on the phone, whether it be at the grocery store, the deli or wherever. It's infuriating because these people want to be served, but don't want to give up their precious phone time. I hate it. This is different from what Peter is describing these joggers were doing. It's slightly weird when someone is jogging and talking on the phone, but it is also their choice to do so. It isn't bothering anyone and it gives you a good chance to laugh at them behind their back. Let people live their lives how they see fit and just walk your damn dog without standing in judgment of any or everyone. These two people want to jog while talking on the phone. It's their choice. Why does Peter insist on going out in public and then leering or silently judging those people he doesn't believe are doing exactly what they should be doing while in public?

The woman was gesturing quite emphatically as she approached, and for a second I thought she was talking to me. The one thing I heard her say as she jogged by was, "And so I said, THAT IS NOT HAPPENING!' ''

Actually, it sounds like she was talking to Peter. She probably heard him muttering under his breath about how the Jets would be smart to pay Darrelle Revis as much money as he wants.

Free country.

But do you really think it is a free country, Peter? Please understand you criticize people you see in public on a near-weekly basis because they don't do exactly what you think they should be doing while in public.

But it's amazing we cannot live without phones for any length of time.

How many times has Peter told us he made a phone call or two while traveling on the Acela? It's silly to run or jog while talking on the phone, but it is possible this is the only time people have to talk on the phone. This is just like when Peter talks on the phone on a train, perhaps that annoys some passengers, but he doesn't care because in his opinion he's the most normal person in the world.

I just think it's bizarre to see people out for exercise talking on the phone.

It's also bizarre to stare at people in public and make notes of every action a person takes, yet Peter seems to do this.

"Whoever designed the phoenix airport really needs to be prosecuted."

-- @JonHeymanCBS, presumably traversing said airport Saturday afternoon.

Sounds like Jon needs to call Scott Boras and get him to fix this immediately. I'm guessing Heyman was in Phoenix personally making a plea to the Diamondbacks to make a run at signing Johnny Damon.

1. I think it's a great year, with the middle-class depth of this draft, to be picking 16th, 22th and 46th overall, as the Rams are.

But again, it is folly for the Jets to trade Revis for a 1st and 2nd round pick because that's what they gave up for the right to draft him. Why would the Jets want two first round picks and two second round picks in this draft where there is great depth of players? It's not worth having these picks in exchange for Revis. Yeah, it is a straw man argument I am making, but I don't care.

Also, Peter thinks Jeff Fisher rules. Never forget this. It's good the Rams have these picks since they gave up the opportunity to draft Robert Griffin in exchange for one of these first round picks.

They're the only team with three picks in the top 50. If I'm St. Louis, I spend money on a left tackle in free agency (could they steal a damaged-goods Jake Long for three years, $25 millon, with a lot up front and/or guaranteed?), then do what GM Les Snead knows he should to build a long-term winner: pick the best players, almost regardless of position.

But again, why trade Darrelle Revis? It's not like the Jets have more than one need on their roster. Trading Revis would only free up salary cap room and bring back picks in return for Revis.

Sorry I keep harping on this, but the idea the Rams are in a great position in the draft because they have cap room and three picks in the top 50, but the Jets shouldn't try to emulate this seems silly to me. I realize the Jets would be giving up Revis through a trade, but they really have more than one position of need.

5. I think, still, that Manti Te'o will be a first-round pick (not past No. 21 to Cincinnati).

Much like Te'o, it seems that Peter believes what people tell him. I guess we'll see and I can see why Te'o would be a first round pick, but I can also see how he falls to the second round. It's not like teams put up smoke screens through the media this time of the year or anything like that.

As one scout told me over the weekend, if you assume Te'o is likely to be a two-down player out of the lineup on most third downs, or passing downs, then the importance of his 40 time diminishes.

So the fact Te'o ran a slow 40 time is a GOOD THING. Teams want to spend first round picks on three-down linebackers. It is the dream of an NFL team to grab a 4-3 linebacker in the first round who only plays on first or second down. Also, the fact Te'o is naive and not worldly is a good thing. He will be great fun at parties when his teammates try to convince him unicorns really do exist.

I love the spin Peter puts on Te'o's 40 time. It's a good thing he is slow because all those teams that are looking to draft two-down linebackers in the first round don't care if he is slow. It's not like NFL teams throw on first or second down.

And his 10- and 20-yard intervals were in the range of what players who run 4.6-second 40s would do. So if you assume it's important for an inside linebacker to have good burst, strength and instinct, then a guy with fast 10-yard speed is going to be valuable for that position.

I wonder if Peter shares an agent with Manti Te'o. I know Peter has been working really hard for Te'o over the past couple of weeks.

6. I think Randy Moss played well enough to get one more year somewhere in 2013. Where, I don't know. But it'd have to be very cheap, and the coach would have to be secure enough and comfortable enough with his own decisions and scheme to bring in a guy he'd have to manage pretty carefully. Can't see him back in New England after his selfish rant a couple of years ago, but you never know.

BREAKING NEWS: Peter King thinks a pending free agent may end up with the New England Patriots.

8. I think the Patriots are going to find a way to keep Aqib Talib. He's too important at a position that otherwise is bankrupt for New England.

And of course Tom Brady's new contract helps the Patriots keep Talib.

9. I think you can trust me on this one: If the Ravens hadn't gotten Joe Flacco committed to a new deal by today, they would not have franchised him at the exclusive level, which would have been $6 million more than the regular franchise tag. They just didn't want to have Flacco on the books for $20 million in 2013.

Even then a team would have to sign Flacco and give up a picks in the process. I just don't believe there is an NFL team that would give Flacco the $120 million he wanted and was willing to give up picks to make this happen. That's just my opinion.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

d. Wonder if Dennis Rodman would call the North Koreans a friend for life if he took five minutes to understand how the Kim Jong-un administration treats its citizens.

e. Read Escape From Camp 14, Dennis. Then sit with that man and laugh while watching a basketball game.

Come on, it's Dennis Rodman. If you take anything he does or says seriously then it's your own fault. He knows a lot more about North Korea than many, many other people do, but I can't take Rodman seriously. He can call Kim Jong-un "the greatest man who ever lived" and I would take that statement with a grain of salt.

f. Seems to me Rory McIlroy could have played 10 more holes of golf with a toothache.

Yeah Rory, tough it out. It's always fun to hear journalists urging athletes to be tougher.

l. Beernerdness: One of the great things about visiting Boston (and I'm a broken record here) is finding Harpoon's UFO White beer in a bar -- and then having your boss pick up the tab for a couple before getting on the train back home.

One of the great things about reading MMQB is getting to hear Peter tell stories of how people buy him free shit. Riveting theater. I strongly suggest Meryl Streep play the lead in the motion picture based on this story.

The Adieu Haiku

Mad at Flacco? Why?
It's the American way.
Bet on himself. Won.

Why would anyone be mad at Joe Flacco? I don't know what world Peter has been living in lately, but there is no one who could be mad at Flacco for signing a big contract. There may be people who think the Ravens were stupid for giving Flacco such a big contract, but that's not the same thing as being mad at Flacco. 


Snarf said...

King commenting on someone running while talking on the phone got me. This is coming from the guy who can't stay off his phone in the quiet car of the Acela. Maybe the person was listening to music on their phone and got an important call while out. Maybe the person needed to be on the phone all day for work and wanted to squeeze in some time to get some exercise. Certainly more virtuous than ordering sugary venti lattes and staring at everyone else and butting into their affairs.

Also, seems like SI is trying to emulate bleacher report...