NFC North: Andrew Brandt

I won't try to break down the reasons why Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver won the prestigious "Mirror Ball" trophy Tuesday night as the champion of the reality show "Dancing with the Stars." No point in that.

Driver
What I will say is that watching the last few weeks of the show was a good reminder about the value of stepping out of your comfort zone. Driver is a great athlete and competitor, and perhaps he was already a good dancer before this show. But his emotional reaction to winning was an indication of how hard he needed to work to secure this accomplishment, and how much satisfaction he felt upon achieving it.

(Having Packers fans supporting you in the viewer voting doesn't hurt, either.)

Driver will have a few whirlwind days of publicity but could re-join the Packers for offseason workouts as early as next week. His agent, Jordan Woy, tweeted: "Congrats to Donald Driver winning DWTS!! Now it is time to get ready for another season with the Packers!"

Here are some other Packers reactions via Twitter:

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers: Speaking of teammates, am so proud of @Donald_Driver80 and his accomplishment tonight!!! Enjoy the whirlwind the next few days quickie!!!

Tight end Tom Crabtree: Donaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaald Driiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ?#titletown? ?#GoPackGo? ?#dwts? ?#football? ?#dance? ?#America

Linebacker A.J. Hawk: Congrats @Donald_Driver80, Champion, not even close!

Guard Josh Sitton: My little cousin @biigwilly won the sate baseball championship tonight an @Donald_Driver80 won dwts ! What a great night! Congrats guys!!!!!

Receiver Randall Cobb: Quickie has to write a book about this! Congrats to @Donald_Driver80!!!

ESPN analyst Andrew Brandt, a former Packers executive: Donald! Remember skinny 7th round pick coming in saying he would make a name in GB. Great story.

Have a wonderful evening.
An interesting confluence of business events took place last weekend in Green Bay.

First, receiver Jordy Nelson signed a three-year contract extension, taking another issue off the table as the Packers presumably gear up to address a more difficult deal for tight end Jermichael Finley.

[+] EnlargeJermichael Finley
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThree of Jermichael Finley's 18 receptions this season have resulted in touchdowns.
Second, Finley was an afterthought in the Packers' 49-point explosion against the Denver Broncos. Facing consistent double teams, he caught three passes for 28 yards and afterward expressed hope that the Packers would find ways for him to beat double teams moving forward.

Typically, NFL players are paid based on their production. But here's a question several of you have posed: Can they be paid based on the production they generate for other players?

I don't want to take anything away from Nelson or receiver Greg Jennings or any of the slew of playmakers who comprise the Packers' offense. Regardless of Finley's presence, they must do their jobs or the production doesn't occur.

But there is no doubt the Broncos' attention to Finley put his teammates in more favorable situations. Whenever an opponent game plans in that manner, it will diminish Finley's chances of putting up the kind of numbers to go along with a top-end contract extension.

Through four games, Finley is on pace for a 936-yard, 12-touchdown season. That in itself is better than any campaign put together by Jacksonville Jaguars Pro Bowl tight end Marcedes Lewis, who signed a five-year contract worth $35 million, including $17 million guaranteed, in August.

Of course, a few more games like last Sunday's could diminish Finley's season projection. I asked ESPN/National Football Post business analyst Andrew Brandt if Finley's impact on other players could be a negotiating point in contracts. Brandt suggested there are more to contract negotiations than raw statistics.

"I think both sides know the value he brings," Brandt said.

There are no indications that negotiations have begun, and the Packers will always have the option of applying a franchise tag that was worth $7.3 million last year for tight ends. I presume, but don't know for a fact, that the Packers want to keep Finley long term. If that's the case, this will be a complicated negotiation. But if anything, Sunday's game demonstrated that value isn't always in the numbers.
We're expecting a pretty fluid weekend here in the NFC North, so let's dispense with a soon-to-be-irrelevant BBAO post and move straight to the news. First up: Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs' formal request to be traded, as first reported by Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune.

[+] EnlargeLance Briggs
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesChicago's Lance Briggs has three years left on his deal and is due to make $3.65 million this season.
As you know, Briggs approached the Bears this summer about renegotiating his contract, which has three years remaining on it. The Bears apparently (and unsurprisingly) have rejected his request, prompting Briggs to escalate the situation. According to NFL rules, players can be traded at any point between now and Week 6 of the regular season, but it's hard to imagine the Bears complying, given their lack of depth at his position.

To put it bluntly, Briggs has no leverage other than the absence of an in-house replacement. Based on typical NFL protocol, the Bears are justified in asking Briggs to honor the fourth year of a six-year deal. Let's be clear. Briggs is halfway through the contract but has already earned about two-thirds of its total value. All along, Briggs knew that the tradeoff for a $23 million payday in the first three years would be stepping back to $13 million over the final three years.

ESPN business analyst Andrew Brandt put Briggs' strategy in plain language Friday morning via Twitter:
Lance Briggs/Drew Rosenhaus gameplan: Ask for new contract; when denied ask for trade; when denied cause distraction. Rinse and repeat.

Yes, this is not the first mid-deal distraction Rosenhaus has presided over. (The guy literally wrote a book called "Next Question" after his infamous Terrell Owens news conference.) The truth is Briggs and Rosenhaus made a calculated and risky decision when they agreed to their original deal in 2008. They were betting Briggs' play would justify a new deal at this juncture. Otherwise, why would they agree to relatively modest salaries of $3.65 million this season and $3.75 million in 2012?

That expectation, however, was almost impossible to achieve. Briggs was already an All-Pro linebacker in 2008. He signed the deal at the height of his market value. Was it realistic for him to be a better player in 2011 than he was in 2008? The only way to justify a new contract is to argue you have outperformed your current one.

It's not the same thing to say Briggs is undervalued with a $3.65 million salary, because that figure was part of the total package he originally agreed to. Say you let your kids watch five hours of television a week. By Tuesday, they've used up four of the five-hour allowance. Do you add more to that total to stop the inevitable whining about one more hour over the next five days?

I think that's a fair analogy, and it's clear the Bears plan to hold their parenting ground. Briggs' market value was $6 million per year in 2008. He wants $6 million this season, according to McClure, but has conveniently forgotten he earned about $7.5 million per year in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

The question now is how difficult Briggs wants to make it on the Bears. He told McClure the situation is "not going to take away from what I do on the field," and normally I would say that a contract dispute wouldn't distract a veteran team such as the Bears. But Briggs isn't just a player. He is one of their captains and a foundation of their veteran structure. The Bears will have to gauge if they can squeeze a productive year out of him before taking a harder look at this in the offseason. I'm sure that's their preference.

NFC North weekend mailbag

July, 23, 2011
7/23/11
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In a way, I was right.

Last week did provide us the final dark weekend of the NFL offseason. I realize we don't yet have labor peace and the lockout is still on. But players will soon vote on the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), possibly this weekend. And even if the delay continues, U2 is playing a certain NFC North city Saturday night. Ah yes, it will be a beautiful day. See you there.

The heart is a bloom
Shoots up through the stony ground
There's no room
No space to rent in this town
You're out of luck
And the reason that you had to care
The traffic is stuck
And you're not moving anywhere
You thought you'd found a friend
To take you out of this place
Someone you could lend a hand
In return for grace
It's a beautiful day
Sky falls, you feel like
It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away


Harass me through the mailbag, Twitter or Facebook.

I've gotten a surprising number of missives similar to this one from John of Bremerton, Wash.: Though I grew up in Wisconsin and am a Packers fan, I am now losing my interest in the NFL as a whole. In an economy as bad as it has ever been in my 54-year life, players and owners to me are just an illustration of greed. Throw in the agents, lawyers, used car salesman, Wall Street hedge fund guys, politicians -- GREED RULES and I am checking out. They all could care less about the fan. Well this fan no longer cares about any of them. I have enjoyed your column but will no longer be following the NFL.

Kevin Seifert: My general sense throughout this dispute has been that fans would easily move past it provided no regular season games were canceled. After all, it's the games that count -- for everyone. To me, only the most hard-core fans would feel lasting effects of a delay in free agency or the cancellation of minicamps and organized team activities.

But as John points out, there is another segment of fans who are simply turned off by owners and employees of a successful industry brawling over how to divide a $9 billion pie, even if they do it during the offseason. Some of you also find it repugnant that the NFL draws a percentage of its revenues from taxpayer-funded stadiums and believe that fact should mitigate the extent of their capitalism.

I know financial people will note that NFL business growth has slowed in recent years, a classic warning sign for realigning costs. You could find any number of economists who understand why owners locked out players. But some of you don't want to hear about it. I'm guessing the NFL is willing to sacrifice your patronage, in the short-term at least, with the knowledge that a much larger segment will come racing back as soon as the doors open with few questions asked.


Dustin of Dell Rapids, S.D., writes: With James Jones likely leaving via free agency, and Donald Driver growing older, will the Packers re-sign Jermichael Finley to a long term contract during/after this year? After Jones and Driver leave, if Finley is gone, our offense much less of an imposing force. Finley will likely be looking for some big money, but is he worth re-signing, even at a Vernon Davis size contract?

Kevin Seifert: Once again, I'm surprised at how many people are worried about this issue. Finley's contract does expire after the 2011 season, and Finley's wife tweeted this week that family members are already asking where Finley will play in 2012.

Despite Finley's enormous talent, longtime Packers beat writer Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel isn't convinced the Packers will re-sign him. A knee injury derailed Finley last season on the way to what appeared a breakout season, and the fact is he has yet to put together an elite-level 16-game season. The Packers have also invested heavily in a number of core players already, from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to receiver Greg Jennings to safety Nick Collins and cornerback Tramon Williams. Linebacker Clay Matthews will probably soon be up for an extension.

The 49ers signed Davis signed a six-year deal that included $23 million last September.

To me, Finley will answer this question himself by the type of 2011 season he produces. If he becomes the type of 16-game weapon many people believe he can be, it's going to be hard for the Packers to part ways with him.


Michael of Tallahassee, Fla., writes: How does the exemption(s) work that I'm hearing about regarding the salary cap? Specifically is this something that will be a permanent part of the upcoming labor agreement or is it a temporary thing to benefit the teams who are currently over the proposed salary cap and will go away in a couple of years.?

Kevin Seifert: For something like this, it's best to consult with former Packers contract negotiator Andrew Brandt, who is now an analyst for ESPN and the National Football Post. This year, writes Brandt, teams can reduce one player's cap charge by $3 million. So, in essence, the cap will be $120 million plus a $3 million exception, or $123 million. In 2012, the exception will be $1.5 million, but the exception is not built in to every year of the proposed CBA.


Zayne of Houston writes: What do you think of the chances that Clinton Portis comes to the Vikings? He is widely known as the best blocking RB in the league and the Vikings could definitely use him on third down with a rookie QB for protection and a safety gauge much like they used to use Chester Taylor.

Kevin Seifert: I suppose anything is possible, especially with a new coaching staff that surely has different ideas than its predecessor. And it's true, the Vikings first tried to sign LaDainian Tomlinson as a third-down back last season before drafting rookie Toby Gerhart.

But like Tomlinson, I don't think Portis would consider the Vikings his top option. As long as Adrian Peterson stays healthy, the No. 2 back in Minnesota won't play a lot. I'm not sure if the Vikings want a veteran backup for him, and I really don't think Portis would prefer to sign there if he had options.


Wayne of Lake Worth, Fla., writes: Receiver Derrick Williams of the Detroit Lions...In or Out?

Kevin Seifert: With Stefan Logan as a kickoff/punt returner, and rookie Titus Young expected to serve as the No. 3 receiver, the best Williams could do is the No. 4 receiver. He's had two years in that role. I wonder if the Lions' patience has run out.


Anton of Lowell, Ark., saw last week's discussion of the Bears' aging defense and wrote: Can you detail the Bears' talent pool of up and coming players on defense? It seems like they have failed to develop new draft picks (ala Lance Briggs) lately, and I'm scared we'll be seriously hurting once the 2000-04 guys are out the door. Can you shed any positive light on recent draft picks? Is our player development seriously lacking? If so, what can we attribute our recent dry spell to? Why have our new guys on D not taken the next step (Nick Roach, Corey Graham, Zack Bowman)?

Kevin Seifert: The Bears don't have much patience with their cornerbacks. I will say that. We've seen some really good play from Graham and Bowman in the past two years, but both got pushed deep down the depth chart after a couple of poor games. I especially wouldn't rule out the possibility of Bowman re-emerging as a starting-quality player, but it'll take an exceptional training camp to win back the Bears' trust.

One young player I really like is nickel back D.J. Moore, who had four interceptions, eight pass breakups and one touchdown last season. He seems to have a knack for the ball and understands pass coverage. Of course, we were saying the same about Bowman last year at this time. But if you're looking for some hope among the Bears' younger veterans, Moore is a worthy candidate.
In the video below, ESPN business analyst Andrew Brandt reports there is an "increasing sense of hope" that the NFL owners and NFL Players Association could avoid a costly and prolonged work stoppage. The pressure Friday is squarely on the owners, according to Brandt, because they must decide whether to accept the players' offer for a second negotiating extension into next week. If the owners turn it down, allowing the collective bargaining agreement to expire Friday night, they will risk incurring the public's wrath.

Brandt was a longtime member of the Green Bay Packers' front office before co-founding the National Football Post. He recently joined ESPN as a television analyst.

Randy Moss: A steep risk-reward

October, 5, 2010
10/05/10
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Excitement about Randy Moss' possible return to the Minnesota Vikings isn't just consuming the Twitterverse or the team's fan base. A certain quarterback's official Web site just put out an e-mail alert to subscribers.

The subject line: "Breaking News Randy Moss to the Vikings????"

And really, that's the rub. That's why the Vikings would even consider bringing back one of the most dynamic, divisive and volatile players in franchise history: Because they've already bent over backward to bring back quarterback Brett Favre for one more season, guaranteeing him $16 million for a final run at the Super Bowl. If you're going to make that type of commitment, why not take every step to make sure you've surrounded him with a comparable set of skill players?

[+] EnlargeRandy Moss
AP Photo/Morry GashRandy Moss became a star with the Minnesota Vikings, but he also caused distractions -- as illustrated in this photo, when he pretended to moon the Green Bay crowd during a 2005 playoff game.
One could argue that the Vikings' roster already has enough elite-level players to make a deep playoff run. But anyone who has watched their offense over its first three games of the season knows it could use a player to stretch the field. And as former Green Bay Packers executive Andrew Brandt has written, Favre once salivated over the possibility of the Packers acquiring Moss. As he demonstrated with Vikings receiver Sidney Rice last season, Favre loves the idea of a big receiver he can trust to catch the ball even if he's covered.

I'll be honest. I don't know if this deal will happen or not. There appear to be multiple moving parts, from compensation to a possible new contract to the fact that the Vikings and Patriots will play later this month. I've put out feelers to a number of sources and got no indication that the deal is completed.

But without question, there have been discussions, as ESPN's Adam Schefter has confirmed, and that alone is enough to illustrate the level to which the Vikings are willing to sell out to make 2010 their year. Favre would no doubt be thrilled, and knowing Moss' history of short-term motivation, I think you could expect some serious ballin' for the remaining 13 regular-season games. But I hope the few team officials who remain from the first Moss era have informed the new regime -- owner Zygi Wilf, vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman and coach Brad Childress -- how completely unpredictable and destructive Moss' behavior was in those days.

He was their best player and their worst nightmare. He was good for a dozen acrobatic touchdown passes a season, and nearly as many sideshows. He walked off the field in frustration on the day the Vikings clinched a playoff spot in 2004, freely admitted he didn't always play hard and was reviled by players and coaches alike at the end of his tenure. He wore out his welcome after two years with the Oakland Raiders and, even after being placed in the most ideal scenario imaginable, appears to have done the same with the New England Patriots.

A short-term union with Favre could produce some of the highlights of both players' careers -- a possibility worth getting excited about if you're a Vikings fan. But with Moss, there has always been a price. I can only assume the Vikings know that.

NFC North weekend mailbag

September, 18, 2010
9/18/10
1:00
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We touched on the Chicago Bears in our Saturday installment of Have at It. So we'll account for the Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings in a truncated weekend mailbag. I hope you weren't worried. Like Frankie Valli, I was always working my way back to you. (Babe.)

When you were so in love with me
I played around like I was free
Thought I could have my cake and eat it too
Oh how I cried over losing you


For every day I made you cry
I'm paying girl til the day that I die

I'll keep working my way back to you babe
With a burning love inside
I'm working my way back to you babe
With a happiness that died
I let it get away, payin' every day


And I mean EVERY DAY. Please commiserate through the mailbag portal, via Facebook or Twitter. Onward...

Ben of Denver notes my suggestion that Packers general manager Ted Thompson is unlikely to trade for Buffalo Bills tailback Marshawn Lynch and writes: Ted Thompson aggressively pursued both Randy Moss and Antonio Gates and just came up short. When his quarterback has called out for another weapon who would be easily attainable, he will at least try for it. If ANYONE is Ted Thompson's Number One guy, it is Aaron Rodgers. Aaron Rodgers wants him, and we have a need. With Lynch and Brandon Jackson, we would be as good as essentially Grant alone in this offense. They will find someone who will be effective

Kevin Seifert: It's true. As former Packers executive Andrew Brandt wrote this week, Thompson did try to trade for Moss in two consecutive seasons at the behest of quarterback Brett Favre. Ultimately, Moss went to the New England Patriots because they were willing to give him a one-year contract, which Moss considered a better situation than the Packers' two-year offer.

As for the tight end, you're probably referring to Tony Gonzalez when he was with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008. Near the trading deadline that year, the Packers offered a third-round pick but wouldn't meet the Chiefs' asking price of a second-round pick.

In each case, Thompson took measured attempts to secure an elite veteran player. He wasn't willing to break his proverbial bank, but your point is well taken. It's not as if Thompson has ignored the trade market as a rule. That pattern suggests he will at least consider Lynch or another veteran runner, even if it means limiting the resources he's willing to devote to acquire him.




Via Twitter, @brett_conners read my suggestion that NFL locker rooms be closed to the media in order to facilitate professional interaction between players and reporters and writes: So that will eliminate players making inappropriate comments to female reporters?

Kevin Seifert: Fair point. A player could sexually harass a female reporter in an interview room. I didn't mean to suggest that we would eliminate the possibility altogether. As long as there is sexism, racism, homophobia and general insensitivity in society, we will have people hating upon one another.

My point was that the locker room, for better or worse, is hardly a center of professional interaction on any level. Moving to a neutral room would be a big step toward minimizing inappropriate conduct on both sides.




Ned of Berkeley, Calif., writes: While I am admittedly a little biased, I still don't see how you can gauge Jahvid Best's stock to be falling after only one game. Given he's a rookie on a team that isn't exactly a powerhouse shouldn't you cut him a little slack. If he's still not turning it on after three or four games, then I can understand. I think he deserves a break.

Kevin Seifert: The Stock Watch is a weekly analysis. We don't take into account last week or next week. I promise Best will "rise" if he has a strong game Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.




Via Facebook, Derek writes: If the rumors are true about Vincent Jackson, what does this mean for a guy like Bernard Berrian? His play has been uninspiring for the Vikings the past few seasons and it just looks like he's not trying very hard. I am assuming our WR corps by the second and half of the season will be like this: Sidney Rice, Jackson, Percy Harvin, Berrian, Greg Lewis. Am I right? I'm just saying that we'd be spending A LOT of money for a fourth receiver.

Kevin Seifert: Berrian was reported to be limited by a hamstring injury for most of last season, but he didn't help his cause with a pretty quiet game Sept. 9 at New Orleans. I'm not ready to write him off yet, but it's obvious he's not Brett Favre's favorite receiver for whatever reason.

But if the Vikings do acquire Jackson, I still see Berrian as part of the Vikings' three receiver sets. Harvin is best suited to be a slot receiver, which would leave Berrian and Jackson on the outside. (I see Greg Camarillo, not Lewis, as the No. 4 in this situation.)

At this point, I think it's jumping the gun to assume Rice will simply step into his former role the moment he returns from his injury. We're in Week 2 and he's still on crutches and unable to do anything from a football standpoint. The Vikings have placed him on the physically unable to perform list, requiring him to miss the first six games, but there are no guarantees he will be ready after that.

And when he does get back on the field, you have to remember it will be his first football activities since January. The Vikings' biggest motivation here is the uncertainty of Rice's 2010 contribution, not Berrian's Week 1 disappointment.




Dave of Cromwell, Conn., writes: What kind of impact can James Starks have if he is healthy enough to get off the temporary PUP list and return by midseason?

Kevin Seifert: Many people continue to ask about Starks, but he's even further removed from football activities than Rice. Remember, Starks missed his entire senior season at Buffalo because of a shoulder injury before sitting out all of training camp with a strained hamstring. That long of an absence will make it awfully difficult for Starks to jump onto the field for the Packers at midseason and contribute in any sort of meaningful way.

BBAO: Breaking down Packers' report

July, 18, 2010
7/18/10
1:09
PM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Tribune takes a look at all the new players on the Bears' roster.

Detroit Lions

Former linebacker Chris Spielman was a fan favorite as he was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.

A contract extension for Shaun Hill likely means Drew Stanton's days with Detroit are numbered.

Green Bay Packers

Former Packers' Vice President Andrew Brandt quickly breaks down Green Bay's recently released financial report.

Minnesota Vikings

Vikings among 18 NFL teams whose logo will be featured on lottery tickets.

NFC North weekend mailbag

June, 5, 2010
6/05/10
11:00
AM ET
It's around this time of year when I ... just ... can't ... get ... this ... out of my head. (Alice Cooper version. Not a big GWAR guy even though we share a hometown.)
No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher's dirty looks
Out for summer
Out till fall
We might not go back at all
School's out forever
School's out for summer
School's out with fever
School's out completely

If it's not out yet, kids, it will be soon. Now go make something of yourselves.

Questions? Comments? Savagery? You know where to find me: via ESPN.com, Facebook and Twitter.

Onward ...

Via Facebook, Chad asks about the Chicago Bears' five-year run of signing draft choices faster than any other NFL team: Why are the Bears so fast to sign players? Is there some disadvantage that other teams are avoiding or is it truly just a testament to the Bears front office in this matter? What are all the advantages to signing picks so early? Do they save money? Do they end up spending more but getting their rookies into more camps?

Kevin Seifert: A good question, one with both a short and long answer. The short version: For most fans and observers, there is little impact of signing draft choices in May instead of July. It's important to note that rookies can participated in organized team activities and minicamp even without a signed contract. Essentially teams agree that in the case of catastrophic injury, they (or an insurance company) would pay out the market-level bonus and first-year salary they would have gotten if they had been under contract.

There are some inside-baseball financial advantages, however.

Players might be motivated to sign early to jump-start their cash flow. Remember, weekly checks in the NFL don't start until the regular season. The first significant payment rookies receive is their signing bonus. If you sign in May, you start getting it May. If you sign in July, that's when it starts coming. Some players get advances from their agents or sponsors, but I'm sure the agents like to get those advances back as soon as possible.

To understand the Bears' motivations for moving so quickly, I reached out to NFC North friend Andrew Brandt, the Green Bay Packers' longtime contract negotiator who now runs and writes for the National Football Post. (He was also an agent earlier in his career.) Brandt confirmed some suspicions I had -- namely, that the Bears' approach allows them to set the market for their draft position rather than be beholden to future developments.

Here's part of what Brandt said:
From a team point of view, it may want to set the market knowing that there are teams around them that have done player-friendly deals in the past. Or it may want to set precedent with its structure in terms of years, escalators, percentage increases in bonus, etc. Or it may simply be more motivated to start vacation prior to camp. ...

For most of these rookie contracts, the amount of negotiable dollars is very limited.

So one comprehensive take on the Bears' strategy could be this: After you get out of the first round, rookie contracts are pretty standard and formulaic. An agent isn't going to negotiate much above the mostly pre-assigned slot, and a team isn't going to squeeze players much below it. So the Bears just take a more aggressive stance than most, figuring that "setting the market" won't cost them much and in some cases could save them money if another team hands out an above-market contract near the position of one of their draft choices.

There is a disadvantage, however. You can decide for yourself how significant it is. NFL rosters are limited to 80 players during the offseason, but unsigned draft picks don't count against that total. So if, say, your 8-man draft class is unsigned, you can have 88 players on your roster at this point in the year. That's eight extra players to evaluate, eight extra players to develop and eight extra players to use in practice drills to cover for injured veterans. Chances are low that one of those eight will someday become a regular contributor, but some clubs hold off on signing draft choices until after organized team activities for exactly this reason. Signed draft choices do count against that 80-man limit.


Tom L. of New York notes a recent post on the Darren Sharper-Visanthe Shiancoe Twitter exchange and writes: Please stop with the X-Files. I normally check in on your page every few hours at work to see if anything is going on in the beloved Black & Blue, but this is getting to be too much. These guys are entitled to utilize social media in whatever way they want (within team and league imposed boundaries) but you don't have to report every tweet. We don't care anymore, but they aren't go to stop. You can. Please do.

Via Twitter, @Rbuike was more to the point: This is getting boring.....

KS: Fair enough. This "news" story was uncharted territory for most of us. I'm pretty sure that Red Smith (Green Bay's own!) never had to determine how much significance to attach to a series of verbal volleys launched via Twitter.

In general, I believe that tweets are public record and no different than a player answering a question during a group interview. If a player said during a conventional interview anything close to what Sharper and Shiancoe tweeted, I don't think we would have this conversation. It's not often that NFL players threaten to hurt each other, offer six-figure bets or compare one another to Osama bin Laden.

In the back of my mind, I've had to consider whether this thing escalated when Sharper and/or Shiancoe realized the media was jumping on board. That's a chicken-and-egg question that I can't answer. So I decided to keep posting as long as I thought the quotes were interesting and/or entertaining. I assumed these guys would run out of gas. And so that's why I handled it like I did. And it looks like their tanks have finally reached "E."


Kyle of Elmhurst, Ill., writes: Can you tell me why the Bears are going to put Chris Harris at free safety and keep Danieal Manning at strong safety? How does this make any sense? Harris is going to be a starter because the Bears traded for him. He is clearly better suited in the box and at strong safety so why are they putting him at free? Also, Major Wright is going to be the Bears free safety and if Harris is at free then that means Wright is not going to have a good shot at over taking him. Why can't the Bears put Harris at strong (where he is better) and have Wright try to win the job at free? What is the Bears logic in this cause I just don't see how this makes sense?

KS: I agree with most of your points but would caution you on one big fact: It's the first week of June. Last year at this time, we were talking about the pros and cons of Corey Graham as a starting safety. Needless to say, that experiment never made it anywhere near the regular season.

The Bears' safety situation is routinely fluid. This minicamp arrangement could simply have been a nod toward Wright's status as a rookie and a desire to get Harris and Manning on film playing out of position for future reference. I would have to think that as soon as the Bears feel Wright is ready to get on the field, they'll open up the free safety spot for him and move Harris to strong.

Finally, I don't think there is as hard of a line between the free and strong safety positions as many people seem to believe. The free safety sometimes plays in the box, and the strong safety sometimes has deep coverage responsibilities. But to the extent there are differences, I'm guessing the Bears would eventually like Wright at free safety with Harris at strong.


Brandon of Kokomo, Ind., writes: There's been a lot of talk about the possibility of O.J. Atogwe joining the Lions and other NFCN teams, but what about the possibility of Atari Bigby leaving the Pack and going to Detroit? The Lions have an open position at safety, and the Packers don't seem in any type of rush to get Bigby resigned. It seems unlikely to me, a lowly Lions fan, but what are the real chances of it actually happening?

KS: Until recently, I would have said "slim to none." Now, I would just say "highly unlikely." You rarely see teams trading a veteran player within the division, and the Packers seem especially traditional when it comes to that idea. (See Favre, Brett.) But we did see the Lions and Vikings make a draft-day trade that netted the Lions an extra first-round pick, so stranger things have happened.

On paper, it makes some sense. The Packers clearly have big things in mind for rookie Morgan Burnett, whom they traded up in the third round to draft. Bigby hasn't signed his restricted free-agent tender, has had trouble staying healthy in recent seasons and has been skipping voluntary workouts.

The Lions have Louis Delmas starting at one safety position but there are no clear options for the other spot. I'm not sure that the Packers would make an exception in this case, but if they were willing to do a trade within the division, it could help both teams.
PetersonMatt Stamey/US PresswireAdrian Peterson, one of three players in NFL history to rush for at least 1,300 yards and 10 TDs in each of his first three seasons, has two years remaining on his rookie contract.
Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson has three years left on his contract. He wants a new one. So does Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson, whose deal doesn't expire until after the 2014 season.

They have been among the NFL's most productive players in recent seasons and consider themselves due for a raise. So why haven't we heard the same from the NFC North's top player?

Adrian Peterson is one of three players in NFL history to rush for at least 1,300 yards and at least 10 touchdowns in each of his first three seasons. He has two years remaining on the rookie contract he signed in 2007. Importantly, Peterson plays the most bruising position in the game, one that generally leads to a shorter career span and puts a premium on early contract extensions.

Whenever the Minnesota Vikings address this issue, it will prove exceptionally complicated and fraught with risk on both sides. At this point, it doesn't appear to be a priority. Perhaps preliminary talks have already begun, but I haven't sensed the type of urgency that has led to public flare-ups in Tennessee and Houston.

Among other reasons, Peterson is well-compensated relative to rookie contract scales. And the Vikings can't be eager to walk in what longtime contract negotiator Andrew Brandt has called a "graveyard" of failed contract extensions for elite running backs who can't sustain their early career production.

So as we twiddle our thumbs during a quiet time in the NFL offseason, let's consider the issues facing Peterson's future with the Vikings. (And no, none of them relate to the fact that he fumbles too much.)

Straight cash

[+] EnlargeJohnson
Steve Dykes/US PresswireChris Johnson has skipped the Titans' voluntary OTAs so far and is hoping to get a new contract.
Chris Johnson, the No. 24 overall pick of the 2008 draft, is scheduled to earn $550,000 in 2010. He's already received $7 million in guarantees on a deal that would pay him a total of $12 million over five years. Andre Johnson, meanwhile, is locked in to a contract that will pay him an average of $7 million over the next five years. Elite receivers these days are making more than $10 million per season.

Peterson does not fall in the hardship category. He's already collected $17 million in guarantees and he should make close to $7 million in 2010 as a result of incentives. In 2011, his compensation will approach $10 million. That doesn't place him too far behind St. Louis running back Steven Jackson, whose 2008 extension carried a total of $20.5 million in guarantees and will pay him just over $6 million in base salary for 2010.

Certainly Peterson has not reached his financial ceiling. But because of his position in the 2007 draft (No. 7 overall) and some smart negotiating from agent Ben Dogra, Peterson's career has been fairly compensated thus far.

We'll get to this in more detail, but from the Vikings' point of view, you could make a convincing argument that they are better off paying Peterson $10 million in his fifth season and putting off the negotiations for his next deal until he is a relatively old 27.

(Read full post)

Here is some important and relevant information on a potential Albert Haynesworth trade from someone who would know. Former Green Bay contract negotiator Andrew Brandt, who now writes for and operates the National Football Post, notes the NFL would not allow a trade partner to re-pay any part of the $21 million roster bonus Haynesworth received last week from Washington.
Brandt: "The NFL player personnel handbook states that the sale or trade of player contract rights for any amount of money is prohibited as conduct detrimental to the league. Unlike the NBA or Major League Baseball, this is not allowed."

We touched on this issue briefly Wednesday when discussing the possibility of Detroit acquiring Haynesworth and reuniting him with coach Jim Schwartz. It actually makes the deal more palatable from the Lions' perspective -- essentially, Haynesworth would be under contract for two years at about $9 million -- but it's hard to imagine the Redskins eating the $21 million to make a deal.

Brandt does offer this suggestion: A team could indirectly help the Redskins' finances by also agreeing to take tailback Clinton Portis and his $7.2 million in 2010 salary, of which $6.43 million is guaranteed. The Lions do have a short-term need at running back while Kevin Smith continues his knee rehabilitation. Stay tuned.

The cost of a draft day freefall

September, 11, 2008
9/11/08
12:20
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
SmithRodgers

For those interested in such things: The Green Bay official who negotiated quarterback Aaron Rodgers' rookie contract offers an interesting take on how much money Rodgers lost when San Francisco bypassed him and selected Alex Smith with the No. 1 overall choice in the 2005 draft.

In short, here is what Andrew Brandt wrote over at The National Football Post: Smith received more guaranteed money in his first (and perhaps only) contract than Rodgers likely will receive in his first two.

Smith's $49 million deal included $24 million guaranteed. Rodgers, selected 24 spots behind Smith, received a $7.7 million deal with $4.13 million guaranteed.

Rodgers' contract expires after the 2009 season, meaning it's likely the Packers will approach him sometime this winter to discuss an extension -- provided, of course, he establishes himself as their long-term starter. According to Brandt's analysis, Rodgers would be in line for a deal similar to the one Jacksonville gave quarterback David Garrard in the offseason. They key number: $18 million guaranteed.

This is all very preliminary for a quarterback with one NFL start. But let's say Rodgers and his new agent, David Dunn, extract a decent bump from Garrard's numbers and sign a deal with $19 million guaranteed. Rodgers' first two NFL contracts, then, would have combined for $23.13 million in guarantees -- a total just short of Smith's rookie contract.

Comparing Rodgers and Smith is an extreme case, but it illustrates the disparity in the NFL current rules for determining rookie pay scale.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
 
 AP Photo/Mike Roemer
 It may have been better for the Packers organization if Mark Murphy had forced an end to the Brett Favre saga sooner.

A former Green Bay Packers official, who now runs The National Football Post, has an interesting take about how the Brett Favre trade played out inside the team's offices at Lambeau Field.

The Packers' long-standing mantra, writes former contract negotiator Andrew Brandt, calls for the team's president, executive committee and board of directors to "support and stay out of the way of football operations."

Therefore, Brandt writes, "the trade of Brett Favre was a decision made the same way every decision regarding the player product is made in Green Bay: Independent of any administrative or managerial meddling."

This approach is almost always preferable to the alternative: An owner inserting himself into the football process, regardless of his professional expertise or skills. In Green Bay, general manager Ted Thompson essentially has full autonomy to pick players and hire a staff, which includes coach Mike McCarthy.

The Favre situation, however, might have been a rare exception to this rule. I've had a number of people suggest that the Packers' standoff with Favre transcended football. Indeed, it could potentially affect all areas of the Packers' operations -- including ticket sales, branding, marketing and legacy.

For that reason, there are many NFL observers who wouldn't have faulted president/CEO Mark Murphy for stepping in more forcefully and, in essence, ordering Thompson to resolve the situation much earlier than he did. While Thompson might have viewed his path as appropriate from a football perspective, it might not have been healthy for the Packers in a larger sense.

Murphy, however, is still in his first year as the franchise's top administrator. As a former player, he is extremely sensitive to an perception that he might intrude on the Packers' football operations. Murphy did travel to Hattiesburg, Miss., to meet with Favre and agent James "Bus" Cook, but afterward he took great pains to insist that no issues of football were discussed. (Reportedly, Murphy was trying to convince Favre to accept a personal services contract to remain retired.)

The reality is Murphy had no way out of the box. Stepping in, or "meddling," would have violated the apparently sacred trust between the Packers' football and business sides. But allowing the football side to direct the process risked damage to the franchise as a whole. There was no good choice.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

How about some Brett Favre links for a change?

  • The NFL will need about a week to investigate and rule on the tampering case between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette. (Knowing the NFL, however, it wouldn't be a surprise if it takes longer).
  • The Vikings have lawyered up. They have almost nothing to say about the tampering charges.
  • The Chicago Bears owe it to themselves -- and everyone else with interest in their well-being -- to have "The Conversation," writes David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune. They should at least find out if Favre would be interested in playing for the Bears.
  • Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe thanks Favre and the Packers for providing the media with juicy drama during what is traditionally one of the least exciting weeks of the sports year.
  • The Detroit Lions got a little bit of clarity in negotiations Wednesday with first-round draft pick Gosder Cherilus when the Baltimore Ravens signed quarterback Joe Flacco, who was picked one slot behind Cherilus.
  • Former Packers vice president Andrew Brandt will teach sports business at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, as well as sports law at Georgetown law school during the fall semester.
  • An architectural firm has developed a new Vikings stadium that shaves about $100 million from the original $954 million price tag. The design uses some of the existing Metrodome structure. The plan has not been approved.
  • Check out this shot of Vikings coach Brad Childress showing off a 65-pound grouper he caught near Marco Island, Fla. (No, it does not appear Favre was on the boat.)

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