Perhaps an Unpopular Opinion In these parts

>> Tuesday

...but I gotta comment on it nonetheless. Two storylines are currently playing out half a globe and worlds away from each other. The first is Brett Favre's desire to obtain his release from the Green Bay Packers so that he can look to play for another NFL team. The second is Cristiano Ronaldo's desire to leave Manchester United for Real Madrid. United is saying no dice, which has led FIFA Chief Sepp Blatter to say that teams today own players' rights in a form of "modern slavery."

I'm sorry. But for what Ronaldo makes, I would gladly exchange shoes for that kind of "slavery."
What is particularly irksome about these two scenarios is they highlight an apparent double-standard when it comes to contract negotiations between teams and players. I know many people on this blog adhere to the "players, grab as much cash as you can while you still can" philosophy. To an extent, I agree with that. However, once the ink is dry, then it's time for the player to hold up his end of the bargain. I'm not looking for a 4th-grade-style team-loyalty. That much is assumed false. Players are inherently mercenaries; sellling their services for hire to the highest bidder. So whenever any player shows anything resembling loyalty to an organization, it is the exception, rather than the norm.

It's what I'm looking for in a dream world, and it's sad to say that. Sad to say that when teams put their financial well-being out on a limb to lure a star, and commit a significant portion of their payroll to that player, that the player can reap all the benefits from the contract, but the team cannot.

If a player has a career year, the first thing we sports fans hear about in the offseason is the player wants to renegotiate his contract. Think back. Can you remember a prominent story where after a disappointing year, the front office stepped in and tells the player, "You know, you really failed to deliver this year for what we're paying you. We want our money back." Sure, sometimes players "take a pay cut so that the team can sign other players to help build the team," but this rarely happens in non-contract years where players would be out-of-contract anyway. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I don't see this kind of renegotiation to the organization's benefit happening often.

If a team did, a player's likely reaction would be to hold out. But again, this should not be seen as acceptable. You can't use "not performing what you're already contractually obligated to perform" as a bargaining chip. Again, don't get me wrong, I don't mind players playing hardball during contract negotiations, since teams are around a lot longer than players are. Once the contract is signed though...that's a contract. A deal's a deal, and from that point on, both parties should perform their duties, or should have equal rights to renegotiate.

Cristiano Ronaldo is under contract at Old Trafford until 2012, the product of an April 2007 five-year, 50,000-pounds a week contract extension. The deal ended speculation that Ronaldo was en route to, of many teams, Real Madrid. Now, less than 16 months later, Ronaldo decides that the deal isn't good enough, and wants out. Presumably much time was spent negotiating the number of years in the contract. What was that all for? While I can't say Ronaldo shouldn't go to Real Madrid (Having won the Premiership twice and the Champions League with United, it's hard to see what else Ronaldo would have to prove at Old Trafford), however, I would like to see the double-standard ended. If a player wants to renegotiate his contract, great, but if the player underperforms, the team should have just as much of a right to renegotiate the base salary, without relying on more incentive-based contracts.

A similar situation has arisen with the Favre-to-everywhere rumors. It is hard to say that Favre has not been a cash cow for the Packers. It seems every kid in Wisconsin at some point or other in the last 15 years or so has a green #4 jersey. Favre certainly played a huge role in the revitalizaiton of the franchise. However, when Favre stepped away, the Packers figured the year-in-year-out "will-he-or-won't-he" bullshit was over, and as an organization they moved on. Now Favre has apparently had yet another change of heart. Contrary to my opinion on the Ronaldo saga, it is my belief that Favre should not be granted his release, and here's why.

Odds are, Real Madrid and Manchester United...because they play in different leagues, will not play each other this season. If worse came to worse, Man U could simply sell Ronaldo to Real Madrid, take the money and laugh all the way to the bank and never think about him again.

If Favre were to go to another NFL team, especially the Bears or Vikings as I've heard tossed around, the Packers would face him twice a season. Despite his age, Favre is still arguably one of the 10 best QBs in the NFL. And in the NFL, playoff berths are often decided on tiebreakers. Granting Favre his outright release could put the Packers in a precarious position, even if he ended up with an AFC team. Who knows if Favre's new AFC club knocks out the Packers in a down week for Aaron Rodgers and that loss puts the Pack out of the playoffs? In the NFL, that would seem too great a risk.

DISCLAIMER: I know the following will never happen.

If I'm GM of the Packers, I'd grant Favre a conditional release. Favre would be granted his release from the Packers, on the condition that he would not be allowed to sign for any NFL team. Then we'd see how real Favre's itch to play really is. If Favre wants to play professional football that badly so as to go back on his word, Canada's waiting. Favre gets to play professional football, but the Packers don't have to worry about lining up on the wrong side of the ball from Favre.
This works in other professions. Doctors and lawyers upon retirement often sign non-compete agreements, so if they get the itch to practice again, don't sign up for one of their former employer's competitors.

Perhaps I'm silly or too much of an old-timer in believing that 5 years means 5 years, and retirement means retirement. Perhaps I'm crazy in thinking that teams should have an equal right to renegotiate a contract after poor performance as players have a right to renegotiate after great performance. I may be crazy but I think I'm right.


Patrick 11:19 AM  

Favre is going to be traded out of conference...the teams I was hearing were Baltimore or Buffalo

Matt 12:28 PM  

From where? Your sources around the league and/or in the Packers front office?

Vinnie 12:53 PM  

Pat must've sold John Clayton a pair of running shoes today.

As far as the topic goes, I'm a little ambivalent. I don't necessarily think it's too much to ask a guy to honor a contract he signed for whatever he signed it for without demanding adjustment when markets change, a la Brian Urlacher. Every player, player's agent, player's grandma, and player's agent's grandma realizes when they sign a long-term deal that markets can and will change--sometimes to the benefit of players, sometimes not (see: MLB, 1999-2000). Having siad that, it's hard to relate to in most jobs because your average professional can pack up and leave if he feels underpaid / underappreciated / disrespected and has a better offer elsewhere. Athletes aren't afforded that luxury.

Having said that, established (important distinction) athletes also have that little fringe benefit called "guaranteed money." The only guaranteed money most of us have is two-weeks' pay beyond whenever the hell management decides to lay us off.

Now that I made all those obvious points, I completely lost where I was going with that.

Patrick 1:34 PM  

I heard it from my sources inside the NFL front office (wink, wink). Buffalo actually makes the most sense with a solid O-Line and good receiving weapons, not to mention a stellar running back.

You put Brett on the Bills (with the old uni's from the Jim Kelly Era) and you got a 12-4 team and a threat to overtake the Pats next season

Iain 1:44 PM  

Football players, not futball, don't have guaranteed contracts. If you suck you get cut, you get the remaineder of your contract or even a portion of it, you're just fired.

As far as Farve goes, assumeing that Packers management is telling the "truth", he's being a pretty big douche. What he's doing is no better than T.O. or Randy Moss. He shouldn't have "retired" in the first place. Granted I don't know the inner mind of Farve, at the end of last season he may have been so beaten and battered that he accually didn't want to play any more.

Or if Farve is the one telling the truth. He's still being a jerk. If managment has been trying to force Farve out for 2-3 years in favor of Rogers, Favre should have demanded a trade at the end of the season instead of retiring. At least then he shows that his passion for the game is undiminished and his value as a trade comodity is much higher than it is now.

Either way it's a bad situation for the Packers, as Farve wants to go to a team that could make the playoffs with him. Most of the teams who need a QB but still have a solid core of players are in the NFC, notablly Minnesota and Chicago. Green Bay would be foolish to trade him to a team in their conference let alone thier division. Most AFC, with a playoff shot, have an established QB; while Farve might be better than many of them he'll be gone in about 2 seasons. With no real trade possibilites remaing, Favre will end up in his original uniform, and Rogers to Vick will become the most prolific passing hookup since Brady to Moss.

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