interesting article from Pete Prisco
In the world of NFL personnel men, the talk is usually polite and nice when they're on the record, rarely taking shots at players.
Privately, it's a different story.
So when one NFC personnel director was asked for his take on the looming free-agency period, he asked that his name not be used if he were to give his honest assessment. I agreed, and here's what he said.
Kris Dielman is said to have a $12M signing bonus lined up. (Getty Images)
"It will be crap players getting big money."
That's what happens when there is a perfect storm for those free agents on the market. One part of the storm has teams flush with cap room. The other has teams desperate to fill needs. Combine the two together and you get outrageous sums of money being thrown around to players who shouldn't be getting it.
The free-agency market opens Friday, and there's already word of crazy, funny-money deals being made. It's against the rules to tamper with another team's free agent before the period officially begins, but that's a lot like speeding. We all do it, but the dumb ones are the ones who get caught.
And how can one team report another when it's doing the exact same thing?
Unless there's a blatant violation -- like in the late 1990s when teams complained about the Jacksonville Jaguars approaching free agents at the Pro Bowl -- nothing is usually said -- or done.
With a couple days before the start of free-agency, word is trickling in about some of the deals that may have already been worked out.
There's talk San Diego Chargers guard Kris Dielman already has a deal with a team that will pay him a $12 million signing bonus. Same for Bengals guard Eric Steinbach.
We've heard that Ravens linebacker Adalius Thomas is seeking a signing bonus in the $17 million to $18 million range.
Did every owner suddenly morph into that little free-spending dude in Washington who asks all to call him Mr. Snyder?
Funny money, indeed.
The reason this class isn't filled with good players is that most teams have done a better job of keeping their own. They've managed the cap better than in recent years, and that has kept good players off the market.
When some players have balked at deals, the teams still have room to franchise players, like in the case with Dwight Freeney in Indianapolis. He supposedly asked for a $30 million signing bonus from the team during talks. They probably laughed out loud, and then placed the franchise tag on him.
Freeney will count about $9 million if he plays for the franchise tender, but the likelihood is that he signs a long-term deal with a more reasonable cap number and more up-front, guaranteed money.
"Teams have found ways to keep their own players more than ever before," Miami Dolphins general manager Randy Mueller said.
The Buffalo Bills re-signed defensive end Chris Kelsay to a deal that is believed to average $5.7 million per season. He earned that deal by getting 5½ sacks in 2006. That isn't to say Kelsay is a bad player, but he isn't worth that much when Aaron Schobel, the Bills' other end, has a deal that averages $4.5 million -- and he went to the Pro Bowl.
It certainly is funny-money time.
"It's just my opinion, but I don't think it's a great group," Mueller said. "But I do know that you can still identify young, ascending talent."
Selling big-money deals to ascending players can be a tough sell to fans, although the reality is that's the way it should be. Teams should target 26-, 27- or 28-year-old players who are ready to take their games to the next level, rather than 31-year-old players who are on the slope side of their careers.
Take a player like St. Louis Rams receiver Kevin Curtis. At 28, he's played just four seasons and in the past two years has shown the ability to be a productive No. 2 receiver. The Rams would love to have him back as their third -- playing behind Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce -- but they won't be able to compete with the money he will get on the market, as some teams will pay him starter money.
Indications are that the Detroit Lions will make Curtis one of their top priorities. The problem there is that the team already re-signed receiver Mike Furrey to a deal that averages $3.1 million. That won't cut it with Curtis, so how do you tell Furrey that even though his output doubled that of Curtis last season, he won't make as much?
The Chargers and Jaguars will also be in on the Curtis sweepstakes. If two or three teams tangle, the money can get crazy.
Curtis is one player intriguing enough to warrant that big money. But he will not be alone.
There will be deals struck with players that will make you think this is Major League Baseball, where .220 hitters and 7-13 pitchers get paid like CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
Crap players getting big money.
Welcome to NFL free-agency 2007. The wild, wild West is upon us.
Are you ready?
Re: interesting article from Pete Prisco
On the tampering issue, Pro Football Mentioned this
It seems kind of hard to believe that with all the staff members from every team and agents in one spot the week before FA starts, that they wouldn't bring up possible contract deals. It seems kinda shady, but it's pretty much enenforcable (assuming the NFL wanted to enforce it anyway).
Fletcher gone already?
Free agency hasn't even started yet, but the Lions might have already lost a shot at signing middle linebacker London Fletcher.
One of the biggest jokes in the league is that teams can't "tamper'' with players until the official start of the free agency period (which is Friday). However, at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, it's tradition for teams to do a lot of preliminary negotiations with the agents.
Personally, I think it should be within the rules for a team to privately express interest and provide an estimate of what they might offer a free agent between the Pro Bowl and the start of FA.