Free Agency Good for the NFL?: Just Ask Terrell Owens
One week later, the sharks are full.
On February 29th, the NFL free agent signing period commenced. At the stroke of midnight, the sharks (NFL teams) began their feeding frenzy.
Teams began gobbling up players at a frenetic pace. On profootballtalk.com, I thought Mike Florio did an excellent job keeping track of players signing with their new teams.
Within the first 48 hours, the New York Football Giants lost three players from their Super Bowl roster.
Gibril Wilson, Kawika Mitchell, and Reggie Torbor signed with new clubs. All of these former Giants signed with new teams for more money. Giants' management was not willing to shell out the big bucks for these players.
I think fans have to realize contracts in the NFL are not guaranteed. Consequently, if a player who is under contract is suddenly released or cut, he will not get paid. This is why so much hinges on the signing bonus. A player keeps this money.
In the case of Gibril Wilson, he signed with the Oakland Raiders for six years and $39 million. $16 million of his contract is guaranteed. In a couple of years, if he is cut, he will not get paid the remainder of his contract.
In the NFL, an injury to a player can shorten his career as well as his earning potential. A few years ago, Terrell Owens challenged the Eagles as well as the NFL on their current contract policy.
He became a free agent in 2004 and the Philadelphia Eagles signed him to a lucrative deal. He inked a seven year, $49 million contract. Owens made $9 million in 2004. Most of this money came from his signing bonus. His base salary was $660,000.
In his first season in Philadelphia, Owens had a monster year. He had 77 catches for 1200 receiving yards and 14 TDs. Without question, he was the catalyst on the Eagles' offense.
Because of his magnificent season the Eagles—after losing in three consecutive NFL Championship games—finally made it to the Super Bowl. I think a lot of credit has to be given to Owens.
Furthermore, Owens was horse collar tackled by the notorious Roy Williams of the Dallas Cowboys. As a result, Owens was injured in game 14 of the season. He sustained a high ankle sprain. Miraculously, Owens was able to bounce back from the serious injury and played very well in their Super Bowl loss to the Patriots.
During the offseason, Owens and his new agent Drew (The Shark) Rosenhaus made a decision to hold out for more money.
Although Owens was under contract, he felt he wanted to be compensated for playing at a high level. I think his thought process went something like this: if an NFL team can cut a player because he is playing poorly or injured, and not pay him the remainder of his contract, then a player should have the right to renegotiate his contract if he had a magnificent season.
In 2005, Owens was scheduled to make $3.5 million. This was chump change. One of the best receivers in the game was not among the top 10 highest paid wide receivers.
What is wrong with this picture? 10 other wide receivers were being paid more than the best receiver in the game.
During the 2005 offseason, Owens contemplated holding out of training camp. There was a brouhaha regarding Owens and his perceived greed. I think the media focused too much on Owens and not on his message.
Remember, prior to the beginning of Eagles camp in the summer of 2005, there were helicopters hovering over Owens' suburban Jersey home. There was footage of him working out at his home (doing sit ups).
Unsuccessful, Owens did not get the money he wanted. Eventually, he returned to play for the Eagles in 2005 for seven games.
Midway through the season, Owens became a distraction for Eagles' management and the team, too. A decision was made to banish him, and he was suspended for four games without pay and then deactivated for the rest of the season.
I think Owens is misunderstood. He handled the situation clumsily and the media picked up on that and focused only on his perceived antics and greed.
Looking at it from his side, I think he deserved an increase in pay. I think he has a big heart and this was manifested by his recovering quickly from a serious injury in order for him to play in the Super Bowl.
In 2006, Owens signed a contract to play for the Dallas Cowboys. He signed a three year, $25 million contract with a $5 million signing bonus. He was going to receive $5 million in base salary in 2006. In the end, thanks to Jerry Jones, I think Owens is being fairly compensated.
I like free agency. I think it gives players an opportunity to make more money, and has played a role in having parity in the NFL.
Over the years, the Giants were able to make some key additions via free agency, helping to build their current roster. Nevertheless, signing WR Plaxico Burress and LB Antonio Pierce filled important areas of need. Clearly, both players were instrumental in the Giants winning the Super Bowl.
On the other hand, free agency is not a panacea. Giants' management has signed players who did not work out. Please check out my poll at www.nygmennfl.com.
As fans, please remember that although these free agent contracts may seem very striking in the dollar amount, one has take a closer look at the numbers.
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