The recent flurry of activity in free agency is so deceiving. Like Mike Wallace leaves Pittsburgh and signs with Miami for $60 million, $30 million guaranteed. Or like Wes Welker leaves New England and signs two years for $12 million with Denver.
Greg Jennings leaves Green Bay, signs with the Vikings for five years, and gets $18 million guaranteed, $27 million the first three years. Anquan Boldin of Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens with a $7 million contract is traded to San Francisco for a seventh-round pick. Reggie Bush leaves Miami and signs with Detroit, not for major money.
It’s always the players from Bounty gate to they are not playing hard enough in the Pro Bowl. Safety issues, tackling, the we-know-what’s-best-for-the-game. No league fines. It’s players like the NFL after games for non-penalized hits and plays.
Vikings trade Percy Harvin, one of the league’s most dynamic talents, scored 29 touchdowns in 54 games, led the Vikings last season in receptions with 62, and missed five games. Seattle gave the Vikings a first-round pick and a seventh for the 2013 Draft and a third-round pick in 2014.
Harvin signs for six years and $67 million with Seattle. The Vikings sign free agent quarterback Matt Cassel, formerly with Kansas City to backup Christian Ponder. Those are big moves and trades, but if you look very closely you see the salary cap — $120 million per team in 2012 — is virtually the same, up in 2013 to nearly $123 million per team. In the last lockout, the owners beat the NFLPA by slashing the rookie cap or salary pool by 50 percent.
In the 2012 Draft, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the No. 1 and No. 2 picks overall, signed for 50 percent less than the previous year. So what the owners did was chop the guaranteed money to incoming players by 50 percent. By doing that, the owners took away any leverage the veteran players had.
No veteran ever wants to make less than a rookie. Every season, NFL rosters change by 25 percent, new players coming in, older players going out. Now the owners are paying the players about 70 cents on the dollar.
When you see veteran players like James Harrison, Dwight Freeney, Antione Winfield, Nnamidi Asomugha, Adrian Wilson, Brandon Lloyd, Kerry Rhodes, Bernard Pollard, Ray Edwards, just a handful of examples with contracts released, it’s sad. It says the system works for the owners, not the players.
One of the most successful sports agents in the business told me that this year’s unrestricted free agency was the worst the league has seen since the 1990s. “There’s a reason why NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell makes $29 million a year,” said the agent. Goodell is a pushing-the-envelope type of commissioner.
Contracts don’t mean as much, particularly the portions that are not guaranteed. Teams don’t have to honor the agreement; they always can blame the salary cap. This past 2012 season, NFL owners made $2 billion in profits, team owners getting about $27 million each.
Fitz Beat Notes & Quotes
Chicago was good for the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament. The attendance averaged 22,500 for six sessions March 14-17 with 135,000 Big Ten fans.
Ohio State won the Championship 50-43 over Wisconsin. Seven times Ohio State has reached the Championship game in eight years. The Gophers, 20-12, were beaten in the first game 51-49 by Illinois. And they were rewarded for starting 15-1, receiving an NCAA at-large bid.
It’s the third NCAA bid for Tubby Smith in six years at Minnesota, and only the ninth in school history. Smith, now in his 22nd season, is headed to the NCAAs for the 17th time.
Minnesota will play the Bruins of UCLA, 25-9, from the Pac-12 in Austin, Texas Friday night. The Gophers have never beaten UCLA in the NCAAs. The one win in 1997 under Clem Haskins in the elite eight was vacated.
Smith is 29-15 all-time in the NCAAs. The Big Ten got seven teams in the NCAAs with Indiana the Big Ten regular season champion gaining a No.1 seed.
Congrats to Henry Lake, formerly of KFAN — he has signed to work for an all-sports station in Kansas City doing mid-days.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to [email protected], or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.