NFL Salaries Going Nuts?

Armed with new agents, Kevin Curtis likely will let at least one of the four teams that have already had him in for a visit know his intentions. But, with the skyrocketing free-agent deals being signed by very good, but not franchise-changing players, one has to wonder if this is going to help or hinder the NFL in the long run?

The Vikings continue to play the waiting game on wide receiver Kevin Curtis. Curtis, who made the Vikings his first stop on his free-agent tour, fired his agent Tom Condon earlier this week. On Saturday, he hired Bruce and Ryan Tollner to serve as his agents. That could start the process all over again.

What, if any, contract offer was made to Curtis by the Vikings, went out to agent Tom Condon. When he met with the Lions, Curtis fired Condon. Subsequently, he visited with the Eagles and the Giants and, by league rules, couldn't have a new agent in place for either of those interviews.

With the wild sums of money being thrown out during this free agent period, it is likely that one of those four teams will step up with a huge offer for Curtis, who, prior to this year, played third fiddle to Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce with the Rams.

It's unclear how the new agents will handle the negotiating, but with what has already been deemed a weak crop of free agents getting huge money, the Vikings might not be willing to spend a ton of cash just because they have it.

The new collective bargaining agreement approved last year set the salary cap at $102 million in 2006 and $109 million this year. That $109 million figure this year represents an increase of more than 27 percent from the $85.5 million it was at in 2005. In the past, veterans and hot free agent properties were paid enormous sums of money – much of which was never collected because so few contracts had guaranteed language written into them. Now contracts include signing bonuses and guaranteed money that have skyrocketed salaries leaguewide.

Some of the disenchantment with baseball is that the price of doing business got so huge so fast that it created a two-tiered hierarchy of the game in which one could reasonably expect the big-spending teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Braves and Mets to make it to the postseason with a chance at winning a championship. While the playing field is more level in the NFL – everyone gets a chance to spend the same amount – we might start seeing a similar tactic employed. Teams may gear up for a title run by overspending with the knowledge that they will likely fall for a couple of years to "clear the books." While the players won in the last negotiation, giving the fortunate few who were free agents at the time of a bonanza period, it could have some serious ramifications.

The NFL is the No. 1 professional sport for a reason, and the league has done a magnificent job of marketing itself while Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL have each found their own ways to stumble. Whether the Vikings sign Kevin Curtis or not isn't the big issue, it's more a symptom of a growing problem. Free agency in the era of the exploding salary cap has created a climate of the haves and have-nots. If the Vikings give Curtis a five-year deal for $30 million with $15 million or so guaranteed, it will send a message to the players currently under contract that the only way to get full value for their services is to become free agents. If that happens, the league will sadly become a sport of mercenaries – much like baseball has become in many respects.

SUNDAY NOTES
* At the Packers' annual Fan Fest on Friday, the gathered crowd heard the name Randy Moss brought up as a potential Packer through a trade with the Raiders. The response? According to local reports, the boos clearly out-voiced the cheers.
* Rumors continue to swirl that teams are prepared to make a draft-day trade with the Redskins. They sit one pick in front of the Vikings and their willingness to deal would make sense. After a series of trades and other questionable front office moves, after their sixth overall pick, the team doesn't have another selection until the fifth round. Any team offering multiple picks will likely find a willing listener.
* In wide receiver free agent news, Donte Stallworth has been offered a contract by the Dolphins, but it isn't unknown whether Stallworth will accept the offer.

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