EARTH CITY, Mo. -- One week into free agency, much has been made of the way teams have been unafraid to open their wallets and spend big money to add to their rosters.
That's true. To an extent. It's long been a well-known fact of NFL life that the only money that really matters when terms of a contract become public is the cash that is guaranteed. Everything else is just for show.
But, as ESPN NFL Nation columnist Kevin Seifert points out in his Monday column, even those guarantees aren't reaching the level they once were as teams take more steps to protect themselves from bad contracts than ever before.
Many of the guarantees that do get shelled out are being pushed to the front of deals in the form of guaranteed first-year base salaries and roster bonuses rather than signing bonuses that can be prorated over the course of a contract. That allows teams to get out from under deals they don't want to keep without having dead money sticking around on the cap.
Seifert sums up what it all means succinctly:
"Players who have switched teams this spring have received more money than they would have in previous years, but teams still hold important pieces of long-term leverage over most of them."
And that doesn't look like it's going to change anytime soon.
A roundup of Monday's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. ... In the Ram-blings, we took a look at the latest big boards from ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. ... Next, we looked at what the Rams have coming down the pipe in free agency and what some options might be for the next step. ... Finally, we took a look at the contract of cornerback Cortland Finnegan with Miami and how it will save the Rams $3 million in salary cap space.
At stltoday.com, Jim Thomas writes that the Rams are considering variable pricing on single-game tickets.
At NFL.com, Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins explains why he believes he's the best wideout in the draft.
At SI.com, Doug Farrar offers up a list of free-agency mistakes with, you guessed it, Rodger Saffold and Oakland at the top of the list.