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INFLATION DILEMMA

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Drafting in the top five has its perks, but signing such a draft choice likely will cost the Saints financially more than it ever has before Thursday, April 27, 2006 By Ted Lewis Staff Writer If the Saints hold on ...

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Old 04-27-2006, 12:02 PM   #1
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INFLATION DILEMMA

Drafting in the top five has its perks, but signing such a draft choice likely will cost the Saints financially more than it ever has before
Thursday, April 27, 2006
By Ted Lewis
Staff Writer
If the Saints hold on the No. 2 pick in Saturday's draft, when it comes time to start negotiating with that player, they may experience something familiar to their car-dealer owner -- sticker shock.

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With the salary cap jumping from $85.5 million to $102 million per team because of the new collective bargaining agreement, the price for signing the top players is expected to rise accordingly.

Last year's No. 2 pick, running brown Ronnie Brown, received $19.5 million in guaranteed money from Miami as part of a five-year, $33.67 million deal.

The Saints' previous highest bonus payment to a rookie was $11.4 million to Johnathan Sullivan in 2003 when he was the sixth overall pick. This year's No. 2 pick will be seeking $20 million to $22 million in guaranteed money, especially with likely No. 1 pick Reggie Bush reportedly asking for $30 million from Houston.

Will the Saints, which according to some reports signed free-agent quarterback Drew Brees for $10 million in guaranteed money because Tom Benson blanched at the idea of giving more than $20 million to Matt Leinart, make whatever decision it arrives at Saturday primarily for financial reasons?

According to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, they shouldn't.

"Obviously, the dollar amount is going to go up," Kiper said. "But if you worry about that, you've got problems. If you're picking in the top five, you take the best player. Money should not be a factor at all, because eventually you will get the deal done."

Pat Kirwan, senior analyst for NFL.com, agrees that teams should not let money dictate whom they take, but added that rookie contracts might not rise by as much as some would think.

"Agents think there's a home run to be hit out there because of the growth of the cap," he said. "But the truth is, a lot of teams are not going to spend to the top of the cap to be able to make trades during the season.

"And you will have some teams take the money and give to their good second and third-year players to lock them up before they know they're superstars. I say that even though every year the money paid rookies rises, the teams say they're never going to do it again and then they will turn around and do it again."

Already, free agents such as Brees have benefited from more than $500 million being added to the cap league-wide. Linebacker LaVar Arrington signed a seven-year, $49 million pact with the New York Giants last week.

"For the fortunate free agents of this year, it's the California gold rush," said agent Leigh Steinberg. "The increases in the rookie pool did not parallel the increases in the cap overall, so the money has to go somewhere.

"Still the system does have a certain irrationality about it. Not only does it give so much money to unproven players, but it also bunches the money so much at the top it's almost beyond belief."

Indeed, the NFL system has long been skewed toward giving large payouts to rookies, especially those taken in the upper half of the first round.

Quarterback Alex Smith received a record $24 million in guaranteed money from San Francisco last year. In contrast, Andrew Bogut, the NBA's top pick, received only $7.3 million guaranteed from the Milwaukee Bucks.

Brown didn't do much worse in the No. 2 spot, earning $1 million more in guaranteed money than tackle Robert Gallery, 2004's No. 2 pick.

For cap reasons, Brown did not receive the traditional signing bonus, but opted for $2.47 million roster bonus for last season and a $12.24 million option bonus during this off-season. His base salary also jumps from $310,000 in 2005 to $984,000 this season.

More teams are putting extra money into option bonuses rather than a signing bonus to better spread cap expenses, although the decision to keep the amortization of all bonuses at five years instead of seven forces teams to be creative.

"The signing bonus is just one of the tools we have at our disposal," said agent Josh Luchs. "What's important is the guaranteed money. Front loading, back loading, incentive clauses, option bonuses, roster bonuses they're all going to come into play."

Luchs said he does not believe the team will flinch if faced with the prospect of having to pay far more than they ever have for a rookie.

"This is an organization that is committed to winning," he said. "Look at what they did with Drew Brees.

"They may be looking for more than one high-quality player to fit their needs, and they can get that by moving down. But I don't think they will be making decisions based on economics."

But Steinberg said the raised salary cap puts more pressure on hitting with a high pick.

"You absolutely have to make a sure-fire, gold-plated pick in that spot," he said. "First, the guaranteed money is not refundable and a bad contact can create an extraordinary amount of dead cap space.

"And secondly, the No. 2 pick has to be a transformational player for your franchise. In the Saints' case, it could be seeing D'Brickashaw Ferguson as someone they put in position to protect the quarterback for 13 to 14 years. But for that kind of money, you had better be right."

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