Matt Barkley: Returning for Another Year at USC a Foolish Mistake

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Matt Barkley: Returning for Another Year at USC a Foolish Mistake
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On Thursday afternoon at USC's Heritage Hall, Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley announced to the world that he will be returning to the team in 2012 for one more season.

And there was much rejoicing.

As for why Barkley decided to come back, he kept it simple.

"This 2012 team has some serious unfinished business to attend to and I plan to play a part in it," Barkley said, per ESPNLosAngeles.com. "I have firmly decided to forgo the 2012 NFL draft and finish that."

It's not hard to translate the phrase "unfinished business." USC's two-year bowl ban will be long gone in 2012, meaning Barkley and the Trojans can compete for a spot in the Rose Bowl, maybe even the BCS National Championship Game.

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In addition, Barkley's name should shoot right to the top of the Heisman Trophy watch list. He has a shot to become the first USC player to win the Heisman since Reggie Bush. Hopefully, Barkley will actually get to keep his if he wins it.

Unfinished business indeed. One can certainly see where Barkley is coming from.

That doesn't mean he made a smart decision, though. On the contrary, he made a decidedly foolish decision.

In choosing to go back to USC for one more season, Barkley effectively demonstrated that he's not much of a businessman. And given the circumstances, that's not a compliment.

Depending on how the draft order shakes out, Barkley had a legit shot to be top-10 draft pick, perhaps even a top-five draft pick. That wasn't going to be the case heading into the 2011 season, but Barkley boosted his stock in a big way by having a truly brilliant season, passing for over 3,500 yards with 39 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.

Thanks to the new CBA, rookies chosen in the top 10 on draft day don't make as much money as they used to, but they still get paid pretty well. Had Barkley been chosen, say, No. 5 overall, he could have been in line to earn something along the lines of the four-year, $18.5 million deal signed by Patrick Peterson, who was the No. 5 overall pick of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2011 draft.

Had Barkley been picked a few spots lower, he still would have been looking at a deal worth over $10 million over four years, a la the deal signed by Jake Locker, the No. 8 overall pick of the Tennessee Titans.

This is pretty good money. In fact, the only way Barkley is going to do any better is if he is the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft.

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Even then, he'd only be getting a slight raise. To give you an idea, Cam Newton, the No. 1 overall pick of the Carolina Panthers, signed a deal worth $22 million over four years. That's less than $4 million more than the deal Peterson signed.

The point: Under the new CBA, being the No. 1 overall pick no longer means a huge payday. There will never be another rookie contract like the six-year, $78 million deal Sam Bradford signed in 2010.

Besides, it would be foolish to assume that Barkley will be the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft. It's not like Barkley has any more room to improve. After setting the bar so high in 2011, Barkley can only regress.

Of course, there's always the threat of a major injury. And with star left tackle Matt Kalil leaving for the draft, the threat of a major injury is something that Barkley is going to have to live with every time he drops back to pass in 2012.

But Barkley is willing to risk all of this just so he can take care of unfinished business, which in this case is all the things he dreamed of doing as the USC quarterback when he was a kid. Judging from Thursday's events, Barkley is still a kid chasing his dreams.

And that's cool. We all have dreams, right? And what the heck. It's not like the NFL Draft is going anywhere.

What Barkley apparently doesn't realize, though, is that the process of chasing his dreams could quickly and easily turn into a nightmare, one that wouldn't necessarily end when the 2012 season ends.

He went for the happy ending choice, but he should have gone for the smart choice.

On occasion, you just have to take the money and run.

 

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