2012 NFL Free Agency: 5 Players Who Won't Receive the Money They Seek
For many players the 2012 offseason will bring about steep financial rewards. Some stars have the potential to chase contracts that will break records, while others are seeking deals that are long overdue.
But for some, this offseason represents something different as there were players who lost a lot of leverage during the course of the 2011 season. The NFL free agent marketplace has both the potential to make dreams come true and the capacity to make sure they don't.
These five players are learning that lesson the hard way in 2012.
Peyton Manning has made quite a few dollar bills during his 14-year career with the Indianapolis Colts, on and off the field.
Forbes magazine estimated that Manning pulled in $26 million from May of 2010 to May of 2011. Manning added a five-year, $90 million contract extension with the Colts back in February of 2011.
Yet a little more than a year later on March 8th, 2012, Manning, once known as the highest paid player in the league, is likely to be released. However it's only because the alternative for the team is shelling out the option-bonus of $28 million to keep him.
While the contract is large to begin with the fact that nearly a third of it is due all at once is quite cost prohibitive and doesn't reflect well on Manning's agent who negotiated the deal. Not that anyone predicted Manning's current situation or the Colts miserable 2-14 season, but the option just puts the team in a terribly awkward position.
The 35-year-old Manning has reportedly had up to four neck surgeries in the last two years and may need to go under the knife again. Despite having logic on his side, Colts owner Jim Irsay has been villainized for much of the offseason for his poor handling of the sensitive situation.
These factors have collided to create a likely lose-lose situation, and a major part of that loss for Manning will be in pockets.
A big thanks goes out to John Abraham for making my job so easy. When beginning this piece I instantly thought back to comments Mr. Abraham shared with a live radio show back in February of this year.
“Check out the five top ends. Everybody is getting 12-plus (million). I made eight million last year. Everybody is saying, ‘Oh, he’s so greedy.’ How am I greedy when I’m just trying to get paid the same thing they are getting paid? There are guys out there getting more money than me, but my production is the same as theirs or at least close.”
Is he really going to make me prove him wrong? Abraham can't seriously believe his production and value is still on par with the top-tier players at his position.
“If I was playing terrible ... no question, five million,” Abraham continued. “I’m not a money chaser, but at the same time I’m expecting to get paid like everybody else is getting paid.
Oh come on, this is hilarious.
John Abraham, at 33-years-old wants to be paid $12 million a season? Yeah he got to the quarterback 9.5 times in 2011, but that quarterback was the woeful Blaine Gabbert 3.5 times in Week 15. Abraham didn't collect a sack in ten games last season and is a heavy risk when considering a long-term investment.
$12 million is an investment you turn around and make into a kid like Elvis Dumervill, not an aging commodity with a questionable expiration date. If Abraham is seriously out to make this type of money he's going to be in for a rough awakening.
The Cleveland Browns stuck to their guns and weathered the storm that was Peyton Hillis' two-year stay. Hillis was successful at a few things including breaking tackles, scoring touchdowns and causing more drama than a diva wideout.
He's a free agent because he rejected a four-to-five-year offer worth $25-$26 million in 2011. One would think that would mean he's on the lookout for more, but he's not in line to get it.
Lets consider the facts here, Hillis was indeed limited in 2011 to say the least, but he did carry the load back in 2010.
He had 270 carries for 1,117 yards and rumbled in for 11 scores that season. His 4.4 yards per carry average and ability to contribute in the passing game (61 receptions, 471 yards, two touchdowns) were his most impressive attributes.
So let's compare for a minute. Take fellow free agent and New England Patriots undrafted commodity BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
He also struggled through the majority of 2011, but Green-Ellis toughed it out and managed 11 touchdowns and nearly 700 yards. Rewind back a year and the Law Firm carried the ball 229 times to the tune of 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns. He matched Hillis' yards per carry average of 4.4 and the two aren't even close in the ball security department.
Hillis may edge BGE with his pass-catching ability, but Green-Ellis has yet to fumble in 510 career attempts while Hillis has put the ball on the ground 11-times in 512 attempts.
The Patriots are letting Green-Ellis test the market and I'm sure the Browns will do the same with Hillis. Hillis would be misguided to expect a massive commitment to him especially considering players like Green-Ellis, who may very well be better investments, are available.
There's not much of an argument against Ray Rice getting rewarded for his production. In that debate Rice, who led the league in yards from scrimmage while setting career highs in rushing yards and all-purpose touchdowns in 2011, would have all the leverage.
Problem is, the Baltimore Ravens had a card to play and the team snatched what leverage Rice had when he was slapped with the franchise tag last Friday. He's in for a pretty nice payday as running backs are expected to haul in about $8 million with the franchise label, but Rice is looking for a bit more.
In fact, the 25-year-old is said to be looking for a contract similar to that of Adrian Peterson.
Yeah the same Adrian Peterson who signed the richest contract in the history of the league for players at his position. Rice is a young, inspired, and talented dual-threat athlete who deserves accommodation for his contributions, but it's no small task for teams to invest $100 million into even the very best players.
His demands either find a new resting place closer to reality or he plays the 2012 season out with no long-term security at the NFL's most physical position.
Wes Welker finds himself in a similar scenario to Rice in that he's likely to have the option to play the year out under the franchise tag or sign a discounted long-term deal. Turning 31 in May, the extremely simple logic of the New England Patriots front office will apply to Welker during negotiations.
The team will ask for concessions to be made based on the fact that Welker is entering the later stages of his career. He's also had a major reconstructive surgery within recent memory which won't help his case.
New England's philosophy usually includes prudence when considering contract negotiations as well. Wes Welker may set records on the field, but the Patriots aren't in any way looking to set them with this contract.
If Welker is looking for anything more than what Randy Moss got in 2008, this is going to be a long, drawn out situation.
Moss, who was 30 at the time, agreed to a three-year, $27 million deal with a $12 million dollar signing bonus, and a total of $14.1 million in guarantees. This after setting the NFL record for receiving touchdowns in a single season.
I'd like to pass along an interesting perspective on Drew Brees and his current negotiations with the New Orleans Saints.
Mike Florio over at ProFootballTalk.com offers up this take.
"With the team on the ropes and fans who regard Brees as the greatest player in franchise history (which he is) looking for Brees to provide the same hope that he continuously has given them since arriving six years ago, Brees is less likely to do anything that would undermine his image and legacy."
It's for this reason that Florio suggests Brees is now more likely to accept the franchise tag and play out the season. The argument being that he wouldn't want to tarnish his image by holding out and ultilizing what leverage he has.
For all the turmoil in New Orleans as of late I don't think there's any real doubt Brees gets extended long-term. The team understands his value and contributions and in the end I don't expect him to take too much of a hit financially regardless of the complexity of his current situation.