The Art of the Deal

Al Davis once again turns the NFL on its ear, breaks new ground and may even have broken the way teams will structure player deals from now on. I don't think there is one general manager or owner who hasn't looked at what the Raiders have done on Nnamdi Asomugha and Shane Lechler's new contracts and not shaken their heads in amazement. I'm still digesting the possible impacts league-wide.

They say Davis is crazy like a fox. There is an operative in that phrase. The reality of having to pay arguably one of the better corners in the league a guaranteed $28.5 million over the first two years of the contract sure makes it hard in one respect, for the rest of the league. At that rate of pay, along with Asomugha's franchise year of $9.7 million, he'll pocket over $38 million for three years.

Coupled with Lechler's deal ($16 million over four years) and the possibility that Asomugha will also play out his contract; the Raiders will be paying two players over $70 million, or an average of $17.5 million per year for the next four years. Unbelievable. Ah, but Al Davis doesn't care - "just win, baby."

Devoting that type of money is fiscally irresponsible and the effect it could have on the rest of the NFL is actually chilling. Don't think for one minute that all of the player agents aren't licking their chops at the possibilities for their clients. With free agency less than a week away, the timing is suspect and begs a rhetorical question: why?

Davis, in his inimitable way, is once again thumbing his nose at the league. It's reminiscent of the antics Bill Veeck and Billy Martin pulled in major league baseball, doing whatever to shake up the status quo. While the Raiders can afford those contracts, can the rest of the league? Probably not.

The Chiefs are going to be at around $45 million under the salary cap for this year. Could they make a similar splash and sign some big-name free agents? Yes, but will Scott Pioli be that irresponsible with Hunt money? Probably not. We could be in for a surprise but I'll go out on a limb and say it won't happen. Remember where Pioli came from - the organization that became the poster child for free-agency frugality. Look for that same type of strategy to become the norm for the Chiefs.

The question becomes how the rest of the NFL will be impacted. We may see a different method of constructing deals, with more front-loaded deals because of the strong possibly of an uncapped year in 2010, unless the NFLPA and the league can structure a new CBA in the near future. Players and agents will want to see the money now. In the event of an uncapped year, teams may begin flushing agreements that aren't particularly economical relative to player performance. The current CBA protects contracted players from "retaliatory measures." Labor agreements aside, there is still the possibility that new contracts will not be much different than what they are now.

Fundamentally, Roger Goodell and the NFLPA must look at several methods of improvement during this new round of negotiations for a new agreement. A rookie salary schedule is something that both sides need to consider, as well as a more realistic method of structuring deals that lessens agent power and re-empowers management to develop realistic deals that are fair to the players and the team.

Hopefully owners will enter into this next CBA with the intent of realigning spending and coordinating marketing such that player affordability is in line with talent, rather than the market extremes that have driven player deals in the past. While some players may have been worth the high prices they demand, it is a precious few that really live up to their contracts. Oakland has paid out excessive amounts of player compensation and has not fielded a truly competitive team in years. Does Al Davis really believe these two single players will make a $70 million difference that will get the Raiders to the Super Bowl? He might, but the rest of the AFC West probably doesn't.

Scott Pioli, by every estimation, is a thinker and a planner. The value he will try to get from every deal he signs will not be solely based on a one-year consideration. He may only get one good year depending on who he signs, but at the same time he will be thinking of year two and year three. This is where the art of the deal is placed on the canvas. Pioli has been able to produce a few masterpieces in his past, let's see if he has another few in production for Kansas City.

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