I've never really trusted these guys' "sources" but they do present some interesting ideas.
BULGER, BRUSCHI GET WORST DEALS OF '04
A league insider tells us that, in his opinion, the offseason contracts signed by Rams quarterback Marc Bulger and Pats linebacker Tedy Bruschi were the worst deals signed this year by NFL veterans.
Bulger's four-year, $19.1 million package in St. Louis (they guy's a quarterback, right?) is "a joke," the source said, explaining that some teams are using Bulger's contract as justification for lowballing players at other positions. Weeks after agent Tom Condon hit the motherlode with Peyton Manning's record-setting deal, Condon flat-out laid an egg with Bulger's contract.
Sure, Bulger got a $9 million bonus, which isn't out of line with the bonus money received by guys like Tom Brady in 2002 ($10 million), Brett Favre in 2001 ($10 million) and even Kurt Warner in 2000 ($11.5 million). But the market for top-tier quarterbacks supposedly had changed dramatically, with Peyton Manning's $38 million hijack bonus in Indy, Donovan McNabb's $20 million bonus in Philly, and Daunte Culpepper's $16 million bonus in Minny.
Though Bulger likely thinks/hopes/prays that two or three more solid years will result in a much bigger contract, he should look no farther than his own rise to prominence as proof positive that, in the NFL, the gig can come crashing down without warning, as it essentially did for Warner two years ago.
And, in Warner's defense, at least he got paid handsomely (relative to the market at the time) before the wheels came off. If Bulger disintegrates within the next year or two, that $9 million signing bonus will have to go a looong way for a guys who's still fairly young. (Plus, Bulger's contract doesn't have features like the $6 million option bonus the Rams paid Warner prior to 2003, in which he played only one game, or the $1.2 million option bonus they paid him this year -- for the privilege of cutting him three months later.)
As to Bruschi, his four-year, $8.1 million deal translates to a lower per-year average ($2.025 million) than the contracts signed by Carlos Emmons in New York ($3.3 million), Dhani Jones in Philly ($2.7 million), and Barrett Green in New York ($2.6 million). Bruschi arguably is a better player than each of those three.
So what happened? The problem, as the insider explained it, is that Bruschi acts as his own agent. Sure, he avoids the three-percent fee that he would have paid to an agent. But based on the comparable deals signed by Emmons and Jones and Green, an experienced agent likely could have gotten Bruschi a significantly higher after-fee net deal.
And although it seems that the Patriots generally have good intentions, they've got a salary cap to manage and their objective is (as it should be) to sign as many players as possible to manageable (i.e., below market) deals.
They'd be stupid if they gave money way, regardless of whether a guy has no agent. That's why (even though we've got concerns about the current structure of the system, which rewards the agent only for getting a guy the most money, not for placing him on a winning team) every player should have an experienced, competent agent that is committed to getting him the best deal.
Players play and agents . . . um . . . agent. In the midst of increasingly intense offseason workouts and conditioning programs, did Bruschi really have the time or the knowledge to do all the things that a good agent would have done to ensure that he maximized his contract? It's doubtful.
And, again, we're not saying the Pats screwed Bruschi. If anything, the kid screwed himself by trying to go it alone. We're not saying he should hire the Postons next time around (which in our view is an alternative worse than going it alone) and we're not saying that every player needs an agent in every circumstance (e.g., Pats corner Terrell Buckley, who signed a one-year deal for the veteran minimum).
The reality for Bruschi is that there likely won't be a next time around. At 31 years of age, Tedy likely just signed his last seven-figure contract.