Few believed that Wednesday, July 16 will be a day that will change the NFL, but that’s exactly what happened after Bryant, Thomas and Houston got new contracts.
Today, when players make bad decisions, the owners want to protect themselves by offering less money. However, each player is aware of his value to the franchise and often very aggressively negotiates in order achieve his goal. It is no secret that money is the fuel that drives sport today, and in the NFL spending is limited due to the salary cap. Therefore it is very important that individuals are not the overpayment, because the desire of every general manager is making the roster that will be competitive in the battle for the Super Bowl.
Franchise tag is one of the mechanisms that owners use to protect the team. They usually use that on the best player on roster, whose contract expired and in order to prevent him to test free agent market. If there is no agreement on a multi-year contract, a player who is tagged signs a one-year deal and for that one season receives the average salary of five highest-paid players at that position. This is not popular among players because it does not give them security, and it’s not uncommon for players to hold out from all team activities until they reach an agreement that satisfies their appetites.
In previous days the main topics in the NFL were Dez Bryant and Demaryius Tomas. Two top wide receivers are tagged by their teams, and the time for reaching an agreement was slowly running out. The media speculates that unless they get multi-year contracts they will not play in the regular season. Finally, at the last minute Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos bowed to the pressure and both players received five-year contracts worth 70 million dollars, with a that Dez’s contract includes 45 million dollars of guaranteed money, while the Demaryius’s includes 43.5 million dollars. With this move, the players are happy, but also the franchises, as they will now be competitive in the battle for the Super Bowl.
Dallas Cowboys could not allow Dez Bryant to hold out. He’s the best player of the team and after the departure of DeMarco Murray he is most serious threat in offense. Jerry Jones is the owner who rarely makes compromises, but now he had to do put his ego aside, because without Dez there is no chances that American team could win the championship. Denver Broncos are hopeful that Peyton Manning will once again take the team to the Super Bowl, but in order to do that he needs Demaryius Tomas. During the preseason Broncos lost Julius Thomas, Pro Bowl tight end, who went to Jacksonville Jaguars and thus the offense is significantly weakened. To make matters worse, the next season Von Miller’s contract is set to expire, so John Elway would have to choose who to keep in a team, Thomas or Von Miller.
Question is, are these players really worth those monster contracts. In my honest opinion, giving a player 14 million for one season is borderline insane, but that is what the market demands. Calvin Johnson set the standards really high with his 16 million contract. Dez and Demaryius were aiming for those figures, but Dallas and Denver were not willing to overpay their young stars. Even NFLPA, created to protect players’ rights, reacted announcing potential investigations into the matter if the players don’t get new contracts. As far as NFLPA was concerned, Cowboys and Broncos were working together in order to change market terms.
Well, that explains the effect new contracts had on the teams that approved them, but how does that affect the League on the whole? Namely, AJ Green and Julio Jones are set to become free agents after this season. These two wide receivers are in a class of their own and the biggest stars of their respected teams. Since their performances under rookie contracts have been excellent, the time has come for them to receive the rewards. Contracts signed by Bryant and Thomas enable Green, Jones and other receivers to dictate their own terms in the negotiations.
What does all this wide receivers contract drama leave defenders with? Whit media focused on Bryant and Thomas, Justin Houston was fighting his own contract battles away from the spotlight. One of the best pass-rushers of the NFL is the key figure of Kansas City Chiefs defense, and was also franchise tagged this offseason. Houston, however, did not make public appearances and boycott threats. He did skip the OTAs, but negotiations with club management were never interrupted. Eventually, Houston signed the six-year, 101 million dollar contract.
Justin is the heart and soul of the team with highest ambitions, but 101 million? Being one of the finest defenders he wants to be paid like the best, JJ Watt, and even though he is not as versatile and irreplaceable the Chiefs couldn’t leave anything to chance. As a result, Justin Houston became the highest paid linebacker in the NFL, setting new standards for the position.
It is strange how just one day can have far-reaching consequences and possibly influence the future of the League. Contracts signed by the aforementioned players form new market terms for those yet to start negotiations. Even though team owners have no reason to be happy with the way things have been developing, everyone is aware that it is the price you must pay if you want to win the Super Bowl.