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Old 10-19-2005, 07:12 PM   #1
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NFL.COM - Fictional Contracts Review

Fictional Contracts Review: Last year, Todd Steussie signed a "six-year, $20 million" contract with Tampa. It lasted one year and paid about $4.5 million; Steussie was waived and re-signed at a much lower number. Peerless Price signed a "seven-year, $37 million" contract with Atlanta; it lasted two years and paid $12 million. In 2004, Mark Brunell signed a "seven-year, $34 million" contract with Washington; in 2005, it was quietly redone to a two-year, $10 million agreement. Walter Jones of Seattle recently signed a "seven-year, $53 million" contract that only assures him of three years and $27 million. Muhsin Muhammad of Chicago autographed a "six-year, $30 million" contract that assures him of two years and $13 million. Santana Moss of Jersey/B signed a "six-year, $30 million" deal that is for two years and about $12 million. His stadium-mate Plaxico Burress of Jersey/A signed a "six-year, $25 million" contract likely to run two years and pay about $10 million. Todd Heap of Baltimore signed a "seven-year, $30 million" contract that could be as little as a one-year, $4.5 million deal. Kendrell Bell of Kansas City signed a "seven-year, $35 million" deal that only assures him of one year and $4 million.

The actual figures for NFL contracts are heady enough, of course. But I'm willing to wager there has not been a single multi-year NFL contract in the salary-cap era that has gone to term exactly as signed. Announced value is almost always far higher than what players actually receive, because all the player can be sure of is the initial bonus and, in most cases, the second year's payout; after that, the player is either waived or renegotiates. The artificial length of NFL contracts creates fictional future years into which to spread prorated bonus charges. Artificial dollar value is also a little favor teams do for players' egos, and a little favor to agents. The agent holds a press conference boasting about the "$50 million" deal he just negotiated, and the publicity helps him recruit new clients. Later, when the deal is quietly renegotiated downward, the agent does not call a press conference.

Current NFL title holder for contract paper value is Drew Bledsoe. In 2001, at New England, he signed a "10-year, $103 million" agreement that lasted three years and paid $24 million. In 2004, at Buffalo, he signed a "three-year, $19 million" deal that lasted one year and paid $9 million. This year, at Dallas, he signed a "three-year, $14 million" contract that guarantees about $6 million. So in five years, Bledsoe has signed 16 years and $136 million worth of contracts! Combined, these deals will actually pay around $39 million -- heady enough. But the actual value is about a third of the announced value.

Why, TMQ annually asks, do sportscasters and even serious news organizations such as the Associated Press treat the fictional announced value of NFL contracts as real? Sportscasters gush over ersatz numbers such as the "eight-year, $68 million" contract signed by LaVar Arrington of Washington -- after this, the deal's second year, Arrington will either be waived or accept a substantial reduction -- because inflated numbers grab the listener's attention. Yet the actual amounts earned by professional football players are plenty heady enough. There's no need for the media to persist in pretending that NFL players earn far more than they actually do.

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