SI Vault
 
the NFL
Peter King
March 29, 1993
A New tune in New York
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
March 29, 1993

The Nfl

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

They're in the Money
Free agency is only three weeks old in the NFL, but players are already witnessing what they had hoped for: teams bidding aggressively, even outlandishly, for talent. So far 25 free agents have changed jerseys, and many have gotten wealthy as a result.

POS.

PLAYER

OLD TEAM

NEW TEAM

1992 SALARY

NEW AVERAGE SALARY

WR

GARY CLARK

REDSKINS

CARDINALS

$850,000

$2M

S

RONNIE LOTT

RAIDERS

JETS

1.05M

1.8M

LB

CARLTON BAILEY

BILLS

GIANTS

275,000

1.75M

LB

HARDY NICKERSON

STEELERS

BUCS

268,100

1.7M

RB

ROD BERNSTINE

CHARGERS

BRONCOS

685,000

1.67M

G

HARRY GALBREATH

DOLPHINS

PACKERS

410,000

1.53M

DL

LEONARD MARSHALL

GIANTS

JETS

825,000

1.5M

TE

FERRELL EDMUNDS

DOLPHINS

SEAHAWKS

522,500

1.45M

G

BRIAN HABIB

VIKINGS

BRONCOS

275,000

1.4M

T

GERALD PERRY

RAMS

RAIDERS

420,000

1.35M

WR

MARK INGRAM

GIANTS

DOLPHINS

550,000

1.33M

CB

MELVIN JENKINS

LIONS

FALCONS

438,000

1.3M

G

HOUSTON HOOVER

FALCONS

BROWNS

552,000

1.25M

T

DON MAGGS

OILERS

BRONCOS

425,000

1.23M

CB

NAJEE MUSTAFAA

VIKINGS

BROWNS

600,000

1.17M

TE

MARK BAVARO

BROWNS

EAGLES

515,000

1.1M

NT

BILL MAAS

CHIEFS

PACKERS

800,000

1.1M

T

IRV EATMAN

JETS

RAMS

555,000

1.03M

DL

JUMPY GEATHERS

REDSKINS

FALCONS

525,000

967,000

DE

AARON JONES

STEELERS

PATRIOTS

313,800

850,000

G

STEVE TRAPILO

SAINTS

PATRIOTS

550,000

850,000

DE

LEON SEALS

EAGLES

PATRIOTS

550,000

750,000

QB

SCOTT SECULES

DOLPHINS

PATRIOTS

231,000

725,000

LB

JOE CAIN

SEAHAWKS

BEARS

215,000

650,000

DL

JOHN WASHINGTON

FALCONS

PATRIOTS

445.312

460,000

Average 1992 salary among these players: $513,828. New average salary $1,236,480.

A New tune in New York

Sing it, Elton: B-B-B-Boomer and the Jets....

Last Thursday, Jet coach Bruce Coslet waited impatiently as his new quarterback, Boomer Esiason, acquired the day before from the Bengals, did a separate turn with each of nine New York TV reporters. Coslet was antsy because Esiason had some work to do. Moments after the last TV camera was switched off, Esiason and Coslet sat down for lunch at a pub near the Jets' training complex in Hempstead. N.Y., and even before the iced tea was served, Coslet said to Esiason, "Tell me everything about Eric Thomas."

Having traded for Esiason and having earlier acquired safety Ronnie Lott and defensive lineman Leonard Marshall in the free-agent market, the Jets were prepping for the arrival of Thomas, a free-agent cornerback with Cincinnati, who was to visit the Jets' facility on Friday. Esiason, who had played with Thomas for six years, gave Coslet a three-minute, nuts-and-bolts scouting report.

Last week, besides Thomas, the Jets hosted Bear fullback Brad Muster. Bill tackle Will Wolford and Cowboy wideout Kelvin Martin, making the team the busiest shopper in the NFL's three-week-old free-agent supermarket, "in this new system you really can't afford to waste a day," Coslet says. "This game is changing, and you'd better be ready to change with it."

How true. Free agency and the looming salary cap—in 1994 each team will probably have about $31 million to spend on player compensation—will shake the league to its roots. Long-term plans for winning, like those painstakingly formulated by the Bears and the Giants in the early '80s, are a thing of the past. Smart teams will take their best shots to win in the short run, because their good players will be regularly testing the market. That is why criticism of the Jets for signing older players (Lott is 33; Esiason and Marshall are 31) is ill informed. If New York can get a year or two out of this trio, it will be ahead of the curve in the new environment. "It's now like the college game, where you have guys for four years and then they leave." says Jet general manager Dick Steinberg. "What none of us in the league knows is how, especially with the salary cap, you can build a contender for the long haul."

His age aside, Esiason seems to be a curious choice. He has not been effective since 1989, his last standout year, and he was benched in favor of second-year man David Klingler late in this past season. But Coslet, who was the Bengals' offensive coordinator from '86 to '89, thinks that Esiason, who grew up in East Islip, Long Island, not far from the Jets' complex, can have a second career with New York. "I was with him when he was at his best." Coslet says. "I know the reasons for his decline. I watched every film of him the last two years, and he hasn't been accurate, but he has also been running for his life on every snap."

And no matter what you may have read, the Jets did not trade for Esiason because Eagle defensive end Reggie White, the NFL's most sought-after free agent, suggested that Esiason's acquisition would enhance New York's chances of signing him. The Jets had been talking to Cincinnati general manager Mike Brown about Esiason since January—offering quarterback Ken O'Brien and left tackle Jeff Criswell—but had not been able to conclude a deal.

Finally, when New York saw quarterback Vinny Testaverde, formerly of the Bucs, flirting with the Browns early last week—thus placing Tampa Bay coach and Esiason fan Sam Wyche in the market for his former quarterback at Cincinnati—the Jets figured they had better speed things up. So they offered the Bengals a third-round draft pick this year and a conditional second-round pick in '94, a selection Cincinnati will get only if Esiason starts at least half of the Jets' games and has a quarterback rating of 89 or better in 1993.

Now all Esiason has to prove is that the last few years have been an aberration. "Time will tell." says Esiason, who will make $3 million next season. "But I've got a lot of good football left in me. You'll see." The live-for-today Jets, in this brave new NFL world, hope he's right.

Continue Story
1 2