Everything looked great as the Atlanta Falcons approached training camp. The team shocked the critics last year going 11-5, making the playoffs, Turner and White getting named to the Pro-Bowl, having the Offensive Rookie of the Year in Matt Ryan, Mike Smith gaining Coach of the Year, and Thomas Dimitroff receiving General Manager of the Year award. The Falcons bolstered their already potent offense with Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez and Dimitroff had another fantastic draft and even got all of them signed before camp. Life is good with no distractions, right? Wrong.
Ticking Time Bomb
The long talked about issue with Roddy White and his contract status finally bubbled to the surface right as camp began. And this threatens to be the only potential distraction as the Falcons start their drive towards the season. Holdouts are a common issue throughout the NFL, but many are resolved either right before camp or soon into it. This has the potential to be the only distraction and might even be a ticking time bomb on the much needed chemistry and unity a team needs to be successful. Coaches will always say the right things, but the fact is that if White is not in camp, doesn’t get his reps, or is not with the team, than the Falcons will have a major piece of their puzzle missing. The issue has also been a tinder box matter for fans as well. There are always two sides to the equation, and the following examination takes both into account:
A look at Roddy White’s career as a Falcon:
Year Rec Yards TDs
2005 29 446 3
2006 30 506 0
2007 83 1,202 6
2008 88 1,382 7 (Pro Bowl)
Complicated, Complex, & Convoluted
The story is well-documented, but extremely complicated. As it stands now, the NFL plans to end the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in 2011 and that would move to lift the salary cap in the NFL. It’s an extremely vague, convoluted, and complex rule that’s set to take effect soon without further action. A quick version basically will say that players will have to play for six years before becoming a free agent, and that White will fall into a loophole of sorts. Under the current CBA that is set to expire, White is due to become an unrestricted free agent after this year. This would be the case with the assumption that the NFL and Player’s Union could renew this agreement. White could then hit the free agent market next year and entertain the highest bidders.
However, assuming that there is no deal reached, White actually will be a restricted free agent instead, allowing the Falcons to match any other teams offer or receive 1st round pick compensation. And that doesn’t even include the Falcons potential use of franchise tags, which will increase from 1 per team to 3. Is that unbelievably complicated or what? Using this logic, many feel that White and his agents are simply trying to use the last best leverage they may have.
Here’s some helpful links to help describe the situation further:
-Pat Kirwan from NFL.com’s helpful take on the potential uncapped year
-Jason Cole from Yahoo Sports account of the magnitude this situation carries
Numbers Don’t Lie……for Either Side
Forgetting all the points of leverage on both sides, here’s a look purely at what Roddy White could expect to earn in comparison around the rest of the league. Using a two year average, here’s how #84 stacks up:
2 Year Averages (2007 & 2008)
Rank Player Yards TDs Contract
1 Larry Fitzgerald 1,420 11 4 yrs, $40 million
2 Reggie Wayne 1,328 8 6 yrs, $40 million
3 Brandon Marshall 1,295 7 4 yrs, $4 million*
4 Roddy White 1,292 7 5 yrs, $7.3 million*
5 Randy Moss 1,251 17 3 yrs, $27 million
So there you have Roddy White’s agent’s argument in black and white numbers. Statistically, White is one of the best wide receivers in the game, ranking in the top 5 in yards and on par with top 5 touchdowns. Fitzgerald sets the mark with $10 million a year, Wayne makes a little under $7 million a year, and Moss earns $9 million a year. White and Brandon Marshall are the two that haven’t received new contracts. Greg Jennings also threw a wrench in the equation by getting a 3 year, $27 million extension. Many can argue he was overpaid, but it did happen. Using this logic its safe to assume that White deserves at least $7 million, and his agent will argue closer to $8 or $9 million. And judging by his production, age, and the fact that the Falcons drafted and developed him, its time to pay the man his due money.
It’s easy to see White and his agent’s side of the debate after looking at his production over the past two years, but as we know there are always two sides to a contract negotiation, and Thomas Dimitroff and his staff will certainly have their own. While acknowledging that White is a Pro Bowl receiver, and one of the best in the league, he will also bring up Roddy’s first two years as a Falcon in the pros. It was a great turnaround story from one of our current best players, but we all remember the drops, lack of confidence, and ire from fans for failing to live up to the hype in the first two years.
Dimitroff will simply throw out a couple of numbers of his own to counter his agent’s argument: 79, 88, 207, and T-62. Those are where White ranked in terms of yards and touchdowns in his first two years. White ranked 88th in yards and tied for 62nd in touchdowns when compared with the rest of the league in 2005, and ranked 79th in yards and tied for 207th with 0 touchdowns in 2006. Granted, the first could be understandable in his rookie campaign, but not scoring one touchdown after playing in all 16 games is pretty bad. And if he wants to, he can certainly argue that wide receivers who demand $8 or $9 million a year don’t drop potential game-winning passes, as White did in the Denver game. Of course the loss wasn’t White’s fault, but if he makes that difficult catch, then that likely would have been a win.
Even though he only has a few instances as precedents, Dimitroff will point to the two players he re-upped last year during the season in Jonathan Babineaux and Michael Jenkins. Both players were deemed extremely valuable to the franchise in their final contract year and were rewarded accordingly. He’ll also note that neither player held out or complained in regards for a new contract. As Michael Jenkins said, “I just showed up and played football to the best of my ability and knew things would work out (in terms of his contract)”, and it certainly did. Dimitroff can also boast of signing all his draft picks on time for camp in their respective draft class, a feat that many NFL coaches would love to have in their GM.
Somewhere in the Middle
As mentioned previously, Roddy White’s holdout situation is a very unique case involving more than simply a player, agent, or general manager being too greedy or wanting to send a message. Due to the complex nature of the NFL’s current status with the player’s union and the collective bargaining agreement, it is much more difficult to discern who is right and who is wrong. Both sides have valid arguments, and with many cases, this one looks to land somewhere in the middle of the two sides arguments. Roddy White is in fact one of the best young receivers in the game and deserves to
However, White is not on the level of Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne, or Randy Moss in terms of consistently playing at the highest level, at least not yet. A contract of 5 years in the range of $35 to $40 million might be a fair deal on both sides, making somewhere between $7 to $8 million a year is fair, making a little more than Reggie Wayne, but less than Fitzgerald. The Greg Jennings deal has to be looked on as an abnormality and outlier of someone simply getting overpaid.
Daily Tailgate Recipe
Easy, tasty meatball sub for your tailgate. Pizza-Meatball Subs, courtesy of Men’s Health A Man, A Can, A Tailgate Plan: A Second Helping. (Rodale Inc., 2007)
-1 lb frozen precooked lean meatballs
-15 oz can pizza sauce
-4 oz can of sliced mushrooms, drained
-4 sub rolls
Make it – dump the meatballs, sauce, and mushrooms into a large saucepan. Stir to coat the meatballs, sauce, and mushrooms with the sauce. Cook over medium-low heat until the sauce bubbles and the meatballs are heated through, 20-25 minutes. For each sub line a roll with a slice of provolone cheese and pile in 3 or 4 meatballs. Complement with pepperoncinis if desired.