Matt Flynn cashes in on loophole

When the NFL and NFLPA redid the collective bargaining agreement, each side wanted to right the wrongs of the previous deal, namely paying rookies more than established veterans. Each side slashed rookie salaries to ensure there never would be another contract like the one Oakland gave quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

But there was the deal the Raiders gave veteran quarterback Matt Flynn.

Oakland paid Flynn more than $6.5 million this season and released him after one losing start. So this season, Flynn will make nearly $2 million more than Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson -- combined!

This season, those five quarterbacks from the Class of 2012 -- Luck, Griffin, Tannehill, Weeden and Wilson -- will earn a combined $4.55 million in base salary, not nearly what the Raiders paid Flynn.

It demonstrates another loophole in the CBA that went overboard to punish rookies. Not only will Flynn make almost $2 million more this season than those sophomore quarterbacks combined, but he now has the chance to double dip and keep whatever salary another team that signs him is willing to offer.

These have been salad salary days for Flynn, who over the course of the past season and a quarter has made $14.5 million from Seattle and Oakland for making one start for the Raiders.

In Seattle, Wilson beat out Flynn. In Oakland, Terrelle Pryor beat out Flynn. But Flynn truly scored big.

Flynn did what he was supposed to do. He beat the system. But the system is beating some of those younger quarterbacks for now, until they get a chance to redo their deals to cash in the way Flynn has the past two seasons.

Spending for success: NFL owners will not be happy to hear this, but players will.

This season, for the first time in a long time, there is a direct correlation between winning and spending.

The top five free-agent spending teams from this past offseason -- Indianapolis, Miami, Tennessee, New England and Kansas City -- all are winning this season.

Last offseason, the Colts spent $65 million, the Dolphins spent $55.2 million, the Titans spent $45.2 million, the Patriots spent $43.2 million and the Chiefs spent $41.1 million -- and in exchange, those teams now have a combined 19-6 record.

All are having successful seasons. Three are in or tied for first place. In addition to New Orleans, they are this season's biggest NFL surprise stories.

Each identified offseason weaknesses; each paid to address them. With the success these teams have had this season, it could send a message next offseason that there is help available for those willing to pay for it. In a copycat league, others may copy the spending.

Some NFL executives said this week they are not convinced there's a correlation between spending and winning, and how it has turned out this season could be more random than anything. Teams spend from one year to the next based on the outlays they have made on contracts. Yet the facts are as undisputable as the success this season of these teams. They spent; they're winning.

Now there always will be another Albert Haynesworth, another Alvin Harper, another Adam Archuleta, another player who hits the lottery for a team that strikes out. Free-agent busts are woven into a system designed to bolster teams' hopes. There may even be some in this year's free-agent class -- Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace has some around the league wondering.

But the fact is, this year, for the first time in a long time, teams got what they paid for.

Stats say Romo struggles late: If it seems like Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo struggles late in games or in overtime, it's because he does. Statistics bear it out.

Check out the numbers.

In the first 12 minutes of the fourth quarter in each game since 2010, Romo has thrown 26 touchdown passes and only six interceptions and completed 67 percent of his passes, all while posting a total QBR of 80.

But when the games have had fewer than three minutes left in the fourth quarter or been in overtime, Romo has thrown two touchdown passes and four interceptions and completed 59 percent of his passes, all while posting a total QBR of 44.

So there it is, what many football fans -- and especially Cowboys fans -- suspected all along. It doesn't change the fact Romo is one of the top quarterbacks in the game. It just solidifies the thinking that to alter perceptions, he will need to win games when the clock is ticking down, the crowd is screaming and the sirens are blaring.

The Schef's specialties

Game of the Week: Lions at Browns -- It's not often that two first-place teams that haven't won a division title since the NFL realigned 11 years ago each get a chance to hold on to its top spot.

Upset of the Week: Ravens over Packers -- Defending world champions have yet to play their best football, something the Packers could bring out of them.

Player of the Week: Texans QB Matt Schaub -- The much-maligned quarterback still has a chance to turn around his, and his team's, season.