We've long wondered, since the franchise players can still sign subsequent long-term contracts, why more guys didn't show up at their teams' offices the day they were slapped with the tag and sign the tender, and thus guarantee the money. Agents perhaps need to be more proactive, it seems, in directing their clients to grab the guaranteed money.
But as one player rep suggested to The Sports Xchange last week: "Players and their agents are more impressed by the (long-term) six-figure contracts ... but how many of those guys actually collect all the money?"
The players who as of Thursday night had signed their franchise tenders were quarterback Michael Vick; center Ryan Kalil; tight end Marcedes Lewis; defensive linemen Haloti Ngata and Paul Soliai; and linebackers Chad Greenway, David Harris, Kamerion Wimbley and LaMarr Woodley.
Glass houses: Apparently, one of the lowlights from last Friday's mandatory agent meeting in conjunction with the combine workouts was DeMaurice Smith's chastising of a player rep who referred to NFL players as "gladiators" during a remark about the potential lockout.
According to several people in the meeting, Smith went to great (tedious?) lengths to remind the agent that league players are businessmen, not gladiators. He also pointed out that, in the Roman Empire, a meeting of gladiators presupposed that one of the combatants is going to die.
True enough on both counts, but a fairly strange retort coming from a man who loosely throws around the term "war" to characterize the labor struggle between the NFL and the NFLPA, right? Maybe the agent involved just doesn't quite "dig" football - clearly the executive director's pet term, and one repeated again Thursday in his terse statement about a negotiating extension - the way Smith does.
More from the agent meeting: Agent Frank Murtha, one of the smartest men in the room, gave what even his competitors agreed was a passionate soliloquy about the bigger picture ramifications on the labor situation
Talk about incongruous: Among the four agents the NFLPA trotted out to talk to the media about unity was Drew Rosenhaus, a guy who has taken away clients from many of the people in the meeting. That's not to suggest the other three agents in the group - Condon, Ben Dogra, and Joel Segal - have always been choirboys. But Rosenhaus and unity? Get real, guys.
Strike fund: The NFLPA is poised to begin distributing "strike fund" payments (the union hates the term) to veterans, to help them weather a possible work stoppage. Players with at least three seasons in the league will receive lump-sum checks of $59,000. Guys with fewer seasons of seniority will receive less. The money is from dues and licensing fees the union has been squirreling away. The $59,000 is the equivalent of one game-check for a player earning a base salary of $1.003 million. It's a noble effort by the NFLPA, but here's hoping players listened to all that advice about saving 25 percent of their salaries from 2009 and 2010.
Sanders jumps at opportunity: That former Indianapolis safety Bob Sanders on Thursday agreed to a one-year contract with San Diego - the deal is not complete yet, pending an NFL interpretation of some segments - is evidence that none of his suitors offered the two-time Pro Bowl performer big money. And that all the interested teams wanted protection, and an incentive-laden contract from the former defensive player of the year (2007).
Little wonder. Sanders, 30, missed more games (64) than he played (48) in seven seasons with the Colts, and appeared in only nine games the past three seasons since signing his landmark five-year, $37.5 million contract.
Condon told The Sports Xchange last week that Sanders' quandary was whether to sign now, and choose from the relatively modest contracts he had been offered, or wait until free agency and hope the offers, and his leverage, increased.
Looks like delaying, in the minds of Condon and Sanders, weren't going to make a big difference. The numbers aren't available yet on Sanders' contract, but they'll almost certainly be presented as better than they really are. Meanwhile, the deal is a good gamble by the Chargers, particularly if Sanders stays healthy. Safety Eric Weddle is a free agent and, while the Chargers want to keep him, the competition could be stiff. If Weddle is retained, a healthy Sanders could be a terrific partner. If he's not, Sanders might provide a physical presence in the secondary that the team has lacked.
Safety last: Sanders might be the perfect example of how significant a toll the safety position can take. Last week, we noted that, with releases and pending free agency, 25 teams could switch at least one starting safety in 2011. Buddy Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com authored a tremendous column last week on the physical challenges of playing safety in the league and highlighted the suggestions of brain damage in Andre Waters and Dave Duerson, two former longtime safeties who both committed suicide.
Former Green Bay safety LeRoy Butler told Prisco, rather tellingly: "I think in the next couple of years, you're going to see a lot of safeties having problems. Seeing those guys have problems, and then commit suicide, should not be surprising. There's going to be more and more of it. Deep down, we all expect it. We know the problems are coming. But the tradeoff is the $30 million signing bonus, the big mansion, driving the Bentley, and all the stuff that comes with it. That's why guys do it. You know the problems will come someday, but you do it because you love the game, and the (material) things that come with it."
Another former NFL safety, Victor Green, told The Sports Xchange at the Combine that the safety position is the most dangerous in the game.
"You're off the ball, and expected to come up or go back, and hit a moving target. I don't know that any other position is like that," Green said. "You watch guys' heads and necks get snapped back, and there are a lot of safeties. It's like ramming your head into a concrete wall a couple dozen times during a game."
Say what: Best lines, arguably, from the Combine: "I hope they get it dissolved." (Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus when asked about a potential lockout)