Joe Horn's current deal makes him well worth the trouble for the Saints
Posted: Monday June 7, 2004 10:09AM; Updated: Monday June 7, 2004 10:09AM
Joe Horn will earn just $700,000 this year.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
It's a pretty quiet week around the NFL. Teams are hosting their final organized offseason activities, such as passing camps and mini-camps, before heading into a month-long slumber period before training camp. Camps are delayed this year, by the way, because the first Sunday of the season is later than usual -- Sept. 12. So most teams won't start whacking each other until last couple of days of July.
I thought I would take a minute to talk about New Orleans wide receiver JoeHorn's contract, seeing as how he's topical. Last week, I wrote that you shouldn't be surprised if Horn, oftentimes the rock in the shoe of Saints coach Jim Haslett, was a June casualty by the Saints. It's something a rival general manager, a usually reliable source, had told me the previous week.
After it appeared in the column, New Orleans GM Mickey Loomis called. He said Horn wasn't going anywhere. He said the note had stirred up the media troops in the Crescent City, and he wanted to make sure I understood that, even though Horn could be a pretty big patience-tester and the Saints had loaded up with receivers recently, he will be a Saint this year.
"His contract's really pretty good for us this year,'' Loomis said.
That sent me scurrying to my contract information. And I discovered that Horn, this year anyway, will certainly be one of the best bargains in football. It's amazing to think that a man who has averaged 86 catches per season over the past four years, and who has scored 34 touchdowns in those four years, is going to earn $700,000. I mean, no need to weep for Joe Horn. But for an offensive force like him to count for less than one percent of the Saints' salary cap this year ... well, that's a great, great deal for the team, even if Horn acts up sometimes.
So you're asking: How did the Saints get by so cheaply with Horn?
The answer: They didn't.
Even after 11 years under the new salary-cap system, I still hear massive misconceptions about the way the process, and the cap itself, works. The reason the Saints are getting Horn so cheaply this year is because they paid him huge money last year, and they're going to pay him well in 2005, if he's on the team. (Which I doubt.) Horn signed a three-year, $13 million contract extension a year ago this week. A breakdown of the deal:
2003: $5.1 million signing bonus, $1.7 million roster bonus, $700,000 salary. (Total: $7.5 million.)
2004: $700,000 salary. (Total: $700,000)
2005: $1 million roster bonus, $3.8 million salary. (Total: $4.8 million.)
So even if Haslett wanted to cut Horn this year, even if he were tired of antics like the receiver pulling out a cellphone in the end zone during a game last season, he'd have to take a deep breath and say, "This man can help me win. He's making less than some of our backup linemen. And we can handle the other stuff."
A player almost always makes his big money in the first year of a contract that is three years or longer. The team almost always backloads a contract so it sounds richer than it really is by tacking money onto the last year of the contract that it never intends to pay. The middle year or years are the ones when the team usually has the advantage. It's the law of the NFL salary jungle.
Actually, there are two.
"The Giants are expected to announce the signing of quarterback Kurt Wagner today.'' -- A radio tease by WCBS in New York that aired at 5:59 a.m. last Thursday.
"The Giants and former St. Louis quarterback Kurt Russell have come to terms on a contract.'' -- An ESPN radio report last Thursday afternoon.
I have to hand it to the Boston Harbor Hotel. Last Tuesday evening, in my room, was a card asking me which newspaper I would like to have at my door the next morning -- New York Times, Boston Globe, USA Today or the Wall Street Journal. Well, I read the Times every day, and I wanted that one, and of course I like the Red Sox, so I wanted the Globe. So I checked the Times and the Globe. I figured I would only get one, and I would have been happy with either, and I would bought the other at the gift shop. But at 5:40 the next morning, both newspapers were in a nice, tight plastic bag at my door. Now that's what I call an efficient hotel who cares for the guests. See how little it takes to make me happy on the road?
There were 267 people at the Class AA game between the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and the New Britain Rock Cats last Tuesday night in Manchester, N.H. I know. I was one. And I counted. I laughed the next day when I saw the attendance listed in the box score as 1,503. Maybe they include season tickets if the holders aren't there, which, on a 49-degree raw night, would have been quite understandable. If not, then it's interesting how they inflate attendance figures even in the land of the free and the home of the first primary.
Speaking of primaries, my friendly beer vendor (by the way, the Fisher Cats have very gracious employees) told me there was quite a tempest before the Fisher Cats' first season as the Blue Jays' new AA affiliate. The team had just moved from New Haven, and the first proposed nickname was the Primaries. Get it? The New Hampshire Primaries. There would have been double mascots -- an elephant and a donkey. But animalistic heads prevailed, and a predatory cat indigenous to the Granite State was chosen instead.
One more note: Does anyone who reads this column know J.P. Ricciardi, the Toronto Blue Jays GM personally? If so, please tell him that ace baseball scout Peter King says New Hampshire's starter last Tuesday, the itinerant Todd Ozias, should be on the fast track to Class AAA Syracuse. Great changeup. I bet he got five strikeouts with the change.
Two major topics this week, both heavy rip jobs of me for liking Jason Gildon and Martin Sheen.
YOU HAVE NO INTEGRITY IF YOU LIKE JASON GILDON. From Brian Shea of Los Angeles: "I saw that you had Jason Gildon ranked as the top free agent available. I'm not sure if you've actually seen any Steelers games in the past two years, but if you had, you'd find that ranking comical. Especially the part about playing hard until he keels over. Ha! I've never seen a player loaf more than Gildon. He is the most overrated player in the game. In the past two seasons he's been nothing but dead weight on a defense that can't afford any more dead weight.''
I don't claim that Gildon is Lawrence Taylor. He's still a good player, I think, and this is a horrendous class of post-June 1 cuts. A healthy 31-year-old linebacker who's averaged double-digit sacks over the last six years is going to get paid in this climate.
YOU HAVE NO INTEGRITY IF YOU LIKE MARTIN SHEEN. From Rod Aday of East Rutherford, N.J.: "You wish Martin Sheen were President? The man is a complete left-wing nutcase who would drive this country to the ground! You have not only lost your mind, you've lost a reader for life.''
Nice knowing you.
HE'S AN ACTOR, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. From James Stephenson of Woodstock, Ga.: "If real life were scripted like a TV show any idiot who can act the part could be the president. Unfortunately real life is never so easily solved. People with a lot more information and a lot of real life riding on it make decisions that Martin Sheen in his best moments would not be able to comprehend.''
Now, I happen to be a Democrat, and I am not bright enough about politics to make a judgment on how history will see any president of recent times. And let me make it perfectly clear (not-so-obscure political reference there) that I meant I wished Sheen's character was president -- even though I do admire Sheen's penchant for standing up for what he believes in as a person. But don't go telling me that it takes some combination of AlbertEinstein and Mother Theresa to be president. Are you saying that George Bush and Bill Clinton and the senior George Bush all got 1600 on their SATs, and they all have some mystical powers of comprehension that the rest of us don't have? On a side note, James -- and I am not referring to your e-mail when I say this -- but I am always amazed at the level of vitriol that spews from readers' keyboards when I make a comment that strays from what you think I should be writing about. This, people, is an Internet column that includes many opinions on different topics. I'm glad that you feel fired up enough to write to me and express your opinions, but wow. Simmer.
Peter King will answer your questions each week in Monday Morning Quarterback: Tuesday Edition.
A VOTE FOR LESTER HAYES. From Kevin Silvestri of San Diego: "Don't you think Lester Hayes should be inducted into the Hall of Fame before Deion Sanders, the national poster child for modern-day media hype? The guy wouldn't come up and take on the running back. The best at their position do it all, not just part. Deion's in a class all by himself all right -- the weak, mouthy one.''
So tell me how you really feel about Deion. Kevin, I think a guy who was the best cover corner by far in the passingest era in NFL history, which Sanders was, should be a no-doubt first-ballot pick.
A FELLOW BOBCAT CHECKS IN. From Dan Chuhay of Cleveland: "I'm a student at Ohio University and recently found out you were an alum, along with Jay Mariotti from Around the Horn. Go Bobcats! Anyway, I'm a die-hard Browns fan who every year has to argue why Cleveland is going to be good for once. Can you please help my argument so I can shoot my fellow Bengals, Steelers and Ravens fans down?''
I would love to help you, Dan. But the Browns still have most of the same problems they had last December: a leaky offensive line, a secondary I don't trust, vital players (Courtney Brown and Jeff Garcia) who I'm not sure can stay upright for 16 weeks, and no front seven player who scares a quarterback. Having said that, they should have the best running game they've had since they returned to the league in 1999. That's one thing. But I don't see Cleveland winning eight games.
LET'S NOT FORGET LARRY DAVID. From Craig Ellenport of North Massapequa, N.Y.: "Last week you listed The West Wing as No. 3 among your favorite TV shows. We know The Sopranos is first. I'm guessing your second is Six Feet Under? Those are 2-4 on my list. I highly recommend The Shield on FX.''
Nice hearing from you, Craig. No, No. 2 is Curb Your Enthusiasm, which at times last season crept into Sopranos territory. I am down on Six Feet Under right now. Too dark. Ridiculously dark. In my life, I know quite a few gloomy people. But I don't know an extended family and their significant others who are all so incredibly depressing. There's one semi-happy person on the show, and that's the dead old man. I can't watch an hour-long show in which every character is either depressed, abusive, being abused, angry, suicidal, manipulative -- or all of the above, simultaneously. So Six Feet Under will have to go on without me this year. I'll be watching the ESPN baseball game on the small TV in my office on Sunday nights.
1. I think Kurt Warner, whatever happens, will be a team player and will help Eli Manning as much as he can with the Giants. Warner is one of the few people I know in football who truly would help the guy behind him even if it meant it might hurt his situation.
2. I think the best thing any team did last week had nothing to do with Vinny Testaverde or Warner or the cuts. It was Carolina signing John Fox through 2008. We're seeing, with Fox, the birth of a great coaching career, and I want you to hold me to that.
3. I think I had to laugh when a couple of Jets e-mailers took me to task for questioning the team's backup plan for Chad Pennington. One of them wrote that Pennington's not injury-prone, as if to say: We don't need no stinkin' backup! I would just ask Gang Green this: Are you really comfortable with Brooks Bollinger and Ricky Ray as your second and third options?
4. I think, the more I ponder the move, that I have to put a giant question mark around the Cardinals' first-round pick of Larry Fitzgerald. It's not that Fitzgerald isn't going to be a very good player. I think he'll be terrific. But the Cards used first- and second-round selections on receivers last year (Bryant Johnson, Anquan Boldin) and struck gold with Boldin. Then they use their 2004 first-round pick on Fitzgerald. There are 22 starting positions on the field, fellas. Two of them are receivers. And you've used three of your highest five draft choices in the last two years on those two spots. Weird. Not very economical.
5. I think Trung Canidate, Dave Fiore and Jeremiah Trotter sure made the difference for those Redskins, didn't they?
6. I think Jason Gildon would look good in Raiders silver and black ... and don't think that the season-opener (Oakland at Pittsburgh, Sept. 12) won't play some small part in Gildon's decision.
7. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Sopranos alert. I'll be opining on the show right here, so look away if you haven't watched. As is the case with many overly hyped shows, I came away a little empty from the season finale. But that's probably my fault. Didn't we all expect Steve Buscemi to get whacked? (Weird character, by the way. I mean, why'd he beat up his Korean savior in the first place?) Random thoughts: A.J. annoys the crap out of me, which, I suppose is what a mobbed teen boy should do. ... I guess Christopher got scared straight. ... Dr. Melfi is starting to bore me. ... Johnny Sack is one great character. David Chase had better keep him out of jail. ... Best scene: Silvio laying it on the line with Tony, and Tony telling him to fry ice. Oh, that Little Steven. He can act. ... Second-best scene: Tony realizing Junior has lost 60 percent of his marbles and, instead of flipping out at him, he tells him kindly to make sure he eats a good lunch. So what did this season teach us? In the end, the moral of the story is that Tony did things his way, like the whacking of his cousin, and lived to tell about it, and kept control of his family. Both families, actually.
b. Rotisserie baseball note of the week that no one else cares about: So I've dropped from first to ninth in my 12-team league in a month, with Richie Sexson and Kerry Wood and Orlando Cabrera and second base killing me, and I made a decision last week. If I'm going to stink, I'd rather stink with players I like. So I've traded for David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and Nomah, and picked up Kevin Youkilis (remember him in Moneyball? "The Greek God of Walks?'') on waivers. As the Sox go, so goes my ballclub.
c. Coffeenerdness: Take my word for it. The worst thing that can happen to a latte is sugarfree syrup. I got slipped a sugarfree hazelnut latte this morning, and I'm still trying to get the taste out of my mouth. Yecch.
8. I think if anyone can do major surgery on the image of Terrell Owens, it's the Eagles. And boy, are they trying.
9. I think it's absurd the Sopranos won't be on for 23 months.
10. I think Ty Law will hold out and report Aug. 8, and a month later he'll be covering Marvin Harrison in the first game of the year.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Peter King covers the NFL beat for the magazine and is a regular contributor to SI.com. Monday Morning Quarterback appears in this space every week.