What I Learned About Football This Week That I Didn't Know Last Week
Last spring, Fitzgerald signed an extension that will pay him $48.9 million over five years. Last week, Asomugha inked one of the more incredible contracts in NFL history (more about that later, in Stat of the Week); it's either going to be a two-year, $28.6 million contract or a three-year, $45.3 million contract. Let's say the Raiders exercise the option in that third year and it becomes a three-year deal. Usually in free agency, position players get one shot at a big contract. Now really good players in the NFL are going to get two if they play their cards right. I'm exaggerating about the Lebron James' comparison, of course, because he'll make in excess of $300 million playing basketball by age 30. But non-quarterbacks earning $125 million, $150 million, in a career? That's mind-bogglingly inflationary.
Asomugha will be 30 if he plays out the three years and hits free agency in February 2012. Fitzgerald will be 29 if he plays out the four years and goes free. It's very good to be a great young football player right now, even in this age.
Quote of the Week I
"A versatile guy is a guy who can be very versatile.''
Quote of the Week II
"If I gave you the answer you want to hear then you would have already had it. The fact you don't have it ought to tell you something. It really should."
Jones' answer here seems to suggest that if he wanted to cut Owens, he would have done so by now. But I remind you of this: Last year, days before he traded for wide receiver Roy Williams, he told me he wouldn't be trading for a wide receiver. So stay tuned.
Quote of the Week III
"I think if you ask the organization, it's probably split right down the middle who they think can do it.''
Stat of the Week I
The most interesting thing I learned at the combine actually had nothing to do with the combine at all. It had to do with the contract the Raiders negotiated with agents Tom Condon and Ben Dogra for Nnamdi Asomugha. Put simply, this is the kind of revolutionary contract that will reverberate around the league for this entire off-season. Maybe longer.
Taken on an average-per-season basis, Asomugha's contract is 62 percent higher than any cornerback contract in NFL history.
This is what one general manager with several important players to sign told me about the deal: "I've already told two agents that if they include that contract in all the contracts in our negotiations, I'm not listening. It's insane. It's beyond insane. I've never seen a contract like it. The Raiders guaranteed a cornerback more money than Tom Brady or Peyton Manning ever got guaranteed. So I'm not going to listen to any agent who tries to use it as leverage. It makes no sense.''
The richest previous contract signed by a cornerback (and I don't count the eight-year, $80-million Nate Clements deal with San Francisco, because it has two phony years at a total of $27.3 million stuck on the end of it, years both sides know will never be played out) came last year -- Asante Samuel's six-year, $56.14 million deal with the Eagles. Let's compare the Samuel and Asomugha deals:
Asomugha's average pay per year is $5.77-million per year more than Samuel's, or 62 percent more than any cornerback contract ever. Good for him. And good for the Raiders in one way -- they don't lose their best player, and because they don't force a franchise tag on him, they don't have their best player grousing about what a bad team he's on ... at least for now. But in this economy? With the Raiders always lobbying for a more revenue-producing stadium?
* One bit of clarification on the Asomugha contract: The deal is for at least two years and $28.6 million. Then the Raiders have a choice. They have until the fifth day of the league year (approximately March 5, 2011) to decide whether to keep Asomugha or allow him to become an unrestricted free agent. If they keep him, which is highly likely in what could very well be an uncapped year, they will have to pay him a minimum of $16.874 million.
Stat of the Week II
Postscript to the Asomugha deal:
I don't write about agents much. Hardly ever. You, the readers, couldn't care less who Tom Condon or Ben Dogra are or what they do, except when it impacts the game or the ability of your team to keep their players. But I thought the Asomugha deal demanded it -- as did the deal for punter Shane Lechler, another Condon/Dogra client with the CAA agency.
The highest previous per-year deal for a punter was Mat McBriar's $1.7-million-per-year average deal in Dallas, signed a year ago this week. Lechler signed a four-year, $16-million deal. So this contract more than doubles the best contract a punter ever signed.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
You won't see the Jets or the Giants at home on Monday Night Football this year, the same way you saw neither team in a Monday-nighter in East Rutherford last year. Seems the league is being sympathetic to the needs of the construction site at the stadium -- the teams will share a new stadium at the Meadowlands beginning in 2010 -- and a lack of parking in and around the stadium when there is active construction makes a weekday night game a major headache.
Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Note of the Week I
When you drive from the Greater Cincinnati Airport in northern Kentucky to Indianapolis, which I had to do because of late travel-arranging and astronomical air prices in and out of Indy, an oddball travel thing happens. In the first 28 miles of the drive, you travel on I-275 and I-74 from Kentucky to Indiana back to Ohio and then back to Indiana for the long last leg.
Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Note of the Week II
Having a couple of cold ones in Jillian's, a sports bar in downtown Indianapolis, has become a Friday night tradition at the scouting combine for a few scribes. We were there Friday night, a smaller group than usual, when one of the managers walked over and thanked me. "You remember last year?'' the guy said. "You wrote about how bad our coffee was. You called it 'swill.' And I was so glad to see that, because our coffee was awful. It caused us to change our coffee and brew better coffee in here. I just wanted to say thanks.''
I actually had to go back and look it up, because I only vaguely remembered it. This from the Combine MMQB last February:
For years, Jillian's has been our sports bar of choice in downtown Indy. Huge TVs, fun place, good staff. All those are still true. But the coffee. Wow. That's some awful swill. I might be the only sportswriter on the planet who wants a good cup of coffee after beers, chips, salsa, more chips and more salsa and dinner, but I can't change my stripes now. And the coffee-flavored water there ... Sheesh. At least make an effort.
I shook the guy's hand and thanked him for coming over. After three rounds of beers and appetizers, I had to take off for a pre-arranged dinner. The next day, my buddy John Czarnecki of Fox Sports came up to me with Don "Donnie Brasco'' Banks and handed me the $40 I'd left on the table the previous night. Seems the manager comped us.
"World's luckiest man continues hot streak,'' said Brasco.
Yes I am. And yes it does. Thank you, Jillian's. We'll be back next year -- same table, same time.