NFL Escape Plan: Requests for Trades Bear Little Fruit
It seems increasingly common in the NFL that players are trying their utmost to get out of contracts and use the considerable media attention the NFL receives to try and manufacture a trade.
These decisions are usually based on either a hatred for the coaching staff (see: Ocho Cinco, Chad) a desire for a better contract (see: Boldin, Anquan). In this off season alone we've seen the two aforementioned wide-outs request trades, along with the likes of Carolina pass-rusher Julius Peppers, Philadelphia cornerback Sheldon Brown, recently acquired Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, and Arizona defensive tackle Darnell Dockett.
However, NFL teams are becoming increasingly frustrated with these seemingly perpetual gripes and are standing much firmer on their belief of not trading players without good reason.
The Chad Johnson saga has been raging so long that he's had time to change his name, but head coach Marvin Lewis and the Bengals' front office refuse to get rid of him because he is still under contract.
So why do players want to leave? Each player who requests a trade is disgruntled, that much is obvious, but it seems that the frustration can be attributed to three main factors.
Factor 1: A Falling-out with the Coaching Staff
As with Cutler, Ocho Cinco, and even the Brett Favre debacle of last off season, players want to leave when they feel they've lost the trust/faith/respect of the coaching staff around them.
It's a given that every NFL player has an ego, and when that ego stops being fed or respected the player is usually inclined to leave (Terrell Owens is an obvious example of this).
A personal rift between player and coach can be enough to trigger a trade, and, as we've seen with Cutler, the coach will almost always look to shift the player rather than have him cause huge locker-room disruption: Josh McDaniels traded Cutler, Mike McCarthy shipped Favre and Wade Phillips/Jerry Jones cut Owens.
Players will not play hard for a coach they don't respect. When a coach loses the player's respect, the player wants to get outta Dodge, and understandably so.
Factor 2: Contract Demands
Most NFL players are probably unhappy with their contracts (well, apart from this year's rookie class), but the brighter your name shines, the more likely you are to be given a wheelbarrow full of money.
Usually this sudden dissatisfaction with a contract comes from another player at the same position (or even a teammate) receiving a big fat deal. All of a sudden that contract you signed two years ago isn't looking so lucrative: Anquan Boldin and Chad Ocho Cinco have had this issue as counterparts Larry Fitzgerald and T.J. Houshmandzadeh got a lot of money.
At a time when multiple-receiver sets are becoming increasingly popular, the likes of Boldin and Ocho Cinco can demand more because their roles are likely to increase year after year. Long gone are the days when a player would work hard for the duration of his contract.
Although the market value of certain elite players may increase, demanding a new contract after two years of a lengthy deal is not going to endear any player to his franchise or fans.
Factor 3: Desire for a New Challenge
Sometimes, when a player has played for the same team for years, he welcomes a new challenge.
Tony Gonzalez is a Kansas City favorite but requested (and received) a trade because he wanted to leave and the team felt it was time. Gonzalez felt that he had done enough for the Chiefs during the last decade to merit a trade elsewhere and managed to get his wish without a media hailstorm.
Julius Peppers felt much the same way after his years of production in Carolina, but he has not been traded as Carolina is desperate to keep him around.
Not every player is a one-team man, and after a while even legends have to move (think Joe Montana's brief swan song in K.C.). It comes as no surprise that elder players sometimes simply want a fresh start elsewhere. And sometimes, it must be said, they deserve the opportunity.
Over the last decade, players' egos have increased and the NFL has become an even more profitable league, so everyone wants more money. However, an increasing number of franchises are deciding that enough is enough and refusing players' requests to move.
The day cannot be far off when players realize that the more they complain, the less likely they are to have their wishes granted. The NFL is getting more old-school in its actions—from player discipline to contract renewal—and the players will have to learn the hard way to keep their head down and shut up.
Complaining, it seems, won't get you anywhere.
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