As the ink begins to dry on Michael Vick’s $100 million dollar contract with the Eagles, it might be easy to forget that just 2 weeks ago, Larry Fitzgerald signed a similarly valued contract with the Arizona Cardinals. Shortly before that, Peyton Manning signed a contract that would make him the highest paid NFL player, just eking out Tom Brady for that honor. It would seem that teams are more confident than ever that one big player is all they need to put their team over the top – the rest of the pieces are interchangeable.
Victims of Overconfidence
While there is something to be said about the confidence and trust the NFL owners are placing in these players to lead their teams to greatness, there is just as much being said about their foolishness in dedicating such a large chunk of their budget to a player who could, on a whim, go down with injury or see a steep decline in production. Peyton Manning has yet to take a snap since signing his extension, and questions still loom about whether he will be able to go once the season kicks off.
Too Dependent on Others
Larry Fitzgerald is a premier WR in the NFL, there is no question about that, but at the end of the day, Fitzy still needs someone to throw the ball to him – or at least in his general direction. We saw how poor his numbers were last year when he had a subpar QB at the helm, and while we are certain he will rebound, it is just too much money to throw (no pun intended) at a player who likely won’t touch the ball more than 10-15 times a game.
No Guarantee of Performance
I like Michael Vick. I think he paid his debt to society and has rebounded nicely. I was just as excited as anyone last year when he posted one of the best games that any player has ever had in the NFL. But despite the fact that I like the guy, I just don’t think that his style of play is sustainable. He missed a handful of games to injury last year which puts a bit of fear in my head. Sure, his numbers even with the missed games were better than just about anyone’s but is that what my $100 million is paying for? ¾ of a season? Vick’s body likely won’t be able to take a full season of the gun slinging, turf burning style of play he showed us last year, let alone six more (which is how long his contract lasts). That means that the Eagles are banking on him either holding up physically, or adapting to a newer, pocket oriented, style of play that isn’t really that scary to opposing defenses. Vick’s success is largely based on his threat to run with the ball, no matter how much his mechanics, decision making, and accuracy improve. The Eagles placed a big bet on Vick, that he can outrun injuries and adapt to a pocket passing game as he ages.
Setting a Dangerous Precedent
The fact that even some NFL owners are willing to shell out big cash for franchise players is starting us down a slippery slope. Keep in mind that Chris Johnson is holding out, not just for more money, not just for top Running Back money, but for TOP NFL PLAYER MONEY. That is just ludicrous to me. CJ2K is an exciting back, but he is hardly the workhorse that deserves those figures. He is quick to the edge, and uncatchable in the open field, but if you need someone to mash it in on a fourth and goal from the 1 yard line with the game on the line, you’d better look elsewhere. Need someone to stay in and block or sneak out of the backfield on a third and long? CJ hasn’t quite perfected that skill either. But he is too valuable to the Titans, and they will likely give him that money – not because they feel that he deserves it, but because they saw CJ as a part of this team when they made the rest of their offseason moves including picking up Matt Hasslebeck. The owner might actually waste more money by not negotiating with Chris Johnson than he would by signing him to an outlandish deal.
Will it All Backfire?
The National Football League is a tricky beast. No matter how good of a player you are, no matter how hard you train, no matter how good your staff is; you are still risking a career ending injury every time you set foot on the field. Some players like Favre have been able to avoid the major injuries that cause them to miss regular season games, but nobody, and I mean NOBODY is immune to injury. Adrian Peterson suffered knee injuries in college and seems to have fully recovered, but who’s to say that another one won’t sideline him for a season or longer. Same with CJ, Brady, Fitzgerald, Vick. You take a risk any time you dedicate big money to a player. With all of that being said, it is all about being smart and understanding the potential impact that player could have for your team. Vick’s contract is huge, sure, but he is a playmaker who has the ball in his hands on every single snap. He will throw 30+ times a game, and run another 10. Compare that to a running back who might see 30 touches a game if they are lucky or a wide receiver or tight end who may go an entire game without a catchable ball thrown in their vicinity.
Security for the Future
In a league with so much parity, so many free agents and so many moving pieces, anytime an NFL owner has a chance to lock down an important piece of their franchise for an extended period of time, they should jump at the chance. The security in knowing that they have at least one or two positions that they don’t have to worry about for a few years might help them to make better decisions at the remaining roster spots throughout the offseason. Apparently for many NFL owners, that is a gamble that they hope will pay huge money in the upcoming years.