Players with big contracts
Two players, two problems, one common denominator: money. As the 5-11 2006 season recedes into the past and the Redskins look toward 2007, two key defensive players, Shawn Springs and Sean Taylor elected not to attend voluntary workouts, publicly exposing rifts between player and team. In this three-part series, The Curly R examines league and team factors contributing to this development.
Part One: The Modern Era
Part Two: Terrell Owens, Shawn Springs and Sean Taylor
Part Three: Policy, Practice and Personnel
In a league environment where teams sign players to contracts they will never finish and hardballing agents advise players to put themselves ahead of their team, three players serve as interesting examples of stardom in the modern NFL...
Terrell Owens, Shawn Springs and Sean Taylor
The new stars. Terrell Owens signed a seven year, 49 million dollar contract with the Philadelphia Eagles before the 2004 season, then before the 2005 season hired Drew as his agent and stated publicly that he wanted to renegotiate for more money (according to Terrell's Wikipedia entry, his total 2004 plus 2005 compensation would not place him in the money top 10 for receivers). The Eagles, a shrewd team, flatly refused.
Terrell took his gripes to the media, was excused for a week of training camp, had a sitdown with owner Jeff Lurie and coach Andy Reid, but it was to no avail. He made disparaging remarks about his quarterback Donovan McNabb and the team, the Eagles suspended him and deactivated him, then released him. The rest as they say is history as he signed a three year, 25 million dollar deal with the Dallas Cowboys, the sunk cost of which I believe was a reason Jerral W. Jones would not release him after the 2006 season, which I also believe was a contributing factor to Bill Parcells' departure from the team after the 2006 season.
Not many teams these days take a hard line like the Eagles did with Terrell. And you could argue they paid for it. Although Terrell helped get the Eagles to the Super Bowl after the 2004 season, 2005 was a disastrous 6-10 and Terrell did not even play all 16 games that season. Total cost: about 15 million dollars, plus any downstream negative impact Terrell's pro rata signing bonus has on future salary cap numbers.
Right now, this drama is playing itself out with the Redskins and Shawn Springs. Shawn is due 7.25 million dollars in salary for 2007, and the team would like to negotiate that number down, commensurate with his performance. He played in nine games last season, but was only consequential in about six. But, according to Howard Bryant, Shawn 'doesn't accept pay cuts.' So the team is at a Mexican standoff: pay him and play him and hope he's worth that much money, or cut him and take the salary cap hit (trading him is also still an option, but there appear to be few takers).
For his part, Shawn is doing nothing to make the team love him, not staying in contact and not showing up to voluntary workouts. That said, no one put a gun to Dan Snyder's head and forced him to sign a contract that would become sharply less palatable in its later years.
But it's not just the agents calling the shots and continually elevating the payscale. It's the players too, and the University of Miami players typify the moneyed lifestyle of players getting their nut and continuing the NFL's transition from a team sport to the baseball and basketball notions of a bunch of guys living high playing the same sport at the same time but not really working together.
Sean Taylor started complaining about his rookie contract before the ink was dry, then did not return Joe Gibbs' calls, then blew off the mandatory rookie orientation, then got arrested on a weapons charge. He was tossed from a playoff game for spitting on an opponent, then lied to his coach about it when the evidence was broadcast on TV from three angles. He got a late hit call in the 2006 season opener and is just a few hits away from transitioning from a feared hitter to marked man the refs will single out aggressively.
Now not only will he not work out in the offseason at Redskins Park, he won't show up for the voluntary OTAs. Those of us without his gifts and money and potential to be the greatest safety ever do not understand how he cannot be a student of the game and what an incredible learning opportunity playing for Joe Gibbs could be for him. Don't matter onna count of no money coming his way, aside from his rookie contract that does not expire for another two seasons and last I checked pays him dozens of times what the average worker makes (Rotoworld indicates Sean's contract ends after the 2010 season, not 2008, but if I remember correctly, the contract voids after 2008 with certain benchmarks such as playing time, which are certain to be achieved). The core of the issue with Sean is quite simply, that he does not make enough money. (Update: Sean showed up to camp Tuesday and claims there is no dispute over his contract).
Waiting in the wings are other problem players. Andre Carter and Brandon Lloyd, recipients of six year, 30 million dollar contracts before the 2006 season, look like they will get one more season to prove themselves worthy of their money before they are in Shawn Springs territory. And Clinton and Santana are still inside their original Redskins contracts and as Drew Rosenhaus players and former Sean Taylor teammates from Miami, are possible Sean Taylor-complaints waiting to happen.
So how did this all this come to pass with the Redskins? What portion of all these problems is simply the reality of the league and what portion is the Redskins own doing? The short answer, paraphrasing John Wayne's Sergeant Stryker in 1949's Sands of Iwo Jima, is that life is hard, but it's harder when you're stupid.
Curly R's Clouds on the Horizon concludes tomorrow with part 3.
The November 1, 1991 perfect storm of 'The Perfect Storm' fame from NOAA's website here. Cover of Terrell Owens's autobiography 'Going Deep' from here. Shawn Springs: Eric Espada. Santana Moss, Sean Taylor and Clinton Portis celebrating New Year's after the Redskins' season-ending and playoff-clinching win against the Eagles on January 1, 2006 uncredited photo from here.