Sidelines: NFL contract has lost its meaning

"Show me the money! Show me the money!" - Cuba Gooding, Jr. in "Jerry McGuire"

We all got a good laugh from the famous scene in "Jerry McGuire" where the football player and the agent demand and get the huge NFL contract. That was funny. That was entertainment.

But what's happening in the real NFL today is neither funny nor entertaining. I'm not saying that players shouldn't demand and get contracts that fairly compensate them. It's a business and both they and the team have to look out for their own best interests. What I am saying is that contracts apparently aren't worth the paper they are printed on. I'm saying that once you get the deal you want and you feel is fair, play the game. You don't try to leverage a brand new deal simply because you had one good or even great season. If you proclaim that you should be paid commensurate with your most recent performance, then why doesn't the same standard apply when you have an off-year? Be man enough to honor your contract. That's the way it is in the real world and why shouldn't the standard be the same in the world of professional sports?

Call me old-fashioned, if you like. I realize we can't bring back the "good old days" of Vince Lombardi and the iron fist negotiations which basically favored the team. There needed to be a more fair distribution of wealth among the players and it happened. Now, we're at the opposite extreme. The inmates are clearly running the asylum. Somewhere, somehow this bleeding has to be stopped. At some point a contract has to re-gain its meaning. You've got guys trying two re-work deals with two years remaining on the contract. You've got guys trying to disrupt team chemistry right from the get-go, skipping minicamps. Skipping off-season conditioning programs. Threatening to skip training camp. It's funny how some of these same players talk about the need for "team unity" and to "pull together" when the team hits a bumpy road in the regular season. How can you have team unity when so many are apparently in this just for themselves? Team chemistry starts to build in minicamp and training camp. If you wait until the regular season starts, it's too late.

Nose tackle Grady Jackson's holdout is just the latest symptom of the disease that is sweeping the league. Why not negotiate in good faith - quietly and professionally – instead of starting off with this kind of threat? No doubt, Jackson has shown that he is valuable in plugging up the middle for Green Bay's defensive line. He's also proven that he has injury and weight problems. At 32, he is also a bit long in the tooth by NFL standards. What's more, the Packers took a flyer on him after the Saints dumped him. Is there no value in that? He got a two-year, $2.31 million contract extension. He got his deal re-structured at the end of last season. Then he got hurt and missed more than a month of action.

Should the Packers be concerned about his age, his ability to stay healthy and keep his weight in check? You bet! I think Jackson is a fine player but his negotiating stance appears weak. If the players can shout "Show me the money!" the team should rightfully be able to counter with, "Show me the contract!"


Tom Andrews

Editor's Note: Tom Andrews began covering the Packers in 1974 as a reporter for Milwaukee radio stations WZUU and WOKY. He has been a contributing writer to Packer Report since 1999 and his articles have also appeared in the Green Bay Packers Yearbook, Packer Profiles, Packer Tracker and Sports Collectors Digest among other publications. Andrews is also president of Andrews Media Ventures, a Milwaukee area media and communications consultancy. Email him at toma@andrewsmediaventures.com.


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