Signing is a win-win

In the me-first world of the National Football League, Chad Clifton showed a little heart. The left tackle had the option of signing a lucrative long-term contract offer, or saddling the team with a much larger salary cap hit, but he came through in the clutch.<p>

Thanks to Clifton, the 2004 off-season got a whole lot better for the Green Bay Packers and their fans. Clifton signed off on a six-year, $34.2 million deal just minutes before the start of the free agency period late Tuesday night. The deal includes an $11 million signing bonus, and a very releived coach and general manager Mike Sherman.

Clifton may have been able to demand more money out of the Packers, or have played for the the whopping franchise tender this season of $7 million, but he didn't. Instead, he not only received the money, well-deserved money considering what he went through last year about this time, but he allowed the Packers to meet the league-mandated salary cap limit without having to restructure other players' contracts.

That's great news for a team that has to plug a few glaring holes on the the other side of the line of scrimmage. If the Packers advance further than the second round of the playoffs this season, they can look back to the Clifton signing as a starting point.

The Packers aggressively pursued Clifton's agent, Jimmy Sexton, in the past few weeks and made it clear that they wanted to sign the big left tackle before the start of free agency. As the free agency deadline neared, negotiations heated up to the point that Clifton signed an extension. The Packers negotiated up until the 11th hour with defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt last year before coming to terms of a deal.

"I think Jimmy got the picture at the Combine that this is something we really want to do," Brandt said. "It really moved forward from there. In the last couple days, as was the case with Cletidus (Hunt) last year, it was fast and furious."

Clifton's attitude certainly helped.

Earlier on Tuesday, Clifton met in person with Sherman. The two discussed the contract situation and the ramifications if the Packers had to carry the franchise tag into free agency. If you think Clifton felt a little obligated to help the team by signing before the deadline and still get a very fair contract, you are right.

"That definitely crossed my mind when I had a meeting with Coach Sherman," Clifton said. "I knew that with the franchise tag, that's a huge hit on the cap this year. Both sides wanted to get a long-term deal worked out and, fortunately, we were able to do that."

Last year about this time, Clifton was struggling through an intensive rehab program to come back from a devastating hip injury. One minute before the official start of free agency, Clifton and the Packers put an exclamation point on his successful comeback.

Good things often happen to good people. Clifton is a good man, who with the help of his wife, Candy, made a last-minute decision that many Packer Backers will respect for a long time.

"It's not just that he's an excellent player," Sherman said. "He's a quality person."

Clifton has a heart of gold and is well worth the money.

Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of Packer Report. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.


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