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iceshack149 03-04-2004 02:19 PM

Free Agency
You all seem a little uppity today so I thought I'd throw a wrench in all the pissing and moaning.

How to evaluate your team's decisions

By Pat Kirwan Senior Analyst

(March 3, 2004) -- It's big-decision season in pro football.

As we ready ourselves for free agency, most of the decisions a club will make now for the 2004 season and beyond will have more to do with winning and losing than at any other time of the year. In the "old days" before the salary cap, the last cuts in August were the most important time of the year in the business. Not anymore.

After a number of years of managing a salary cap and making personnel decisions, followed by a few more years of covering the league for the media and observing all the teams in the NFL, I think I've seen it all.

1. No contract extension with real money for players over 35: I did it, and many teams are still doing it. The truth is: Not enough of the older players can stay healthy and help win a championship. More important, when they come to the end of their career and they're on your team, the cap hit is tough to take. Look no further than Vinny Testaverde in New York. He could have sent in his retirement papers this week and devastated the Jets' salary cap. Thankfully for the Jets, he decided to wait. Don't get your team in that position.

2. Get more "split contracts" for medical-history issues: Veteran players don't like to sign contracts with a split deal. A split deal says if the player breaks down for medical reasons and can't play, and the club needs salary-cap space to replace the veteran, the team gets it because the injured veteran goes to a reduced pay scale.

3. Try not to have any players in the top-10 paid players at a position, unless it's your kicker: When the Patriots and Panthers made the Super Bowl, I checked their pay structure. The Patriots had one player (Ty Law) as a top-10 cap hit at his position. Their kicker, Adam Vinatieri, was a top-salaried player. In fact, Carolina and New England had three of the top 10-paid kickers and punters between them. Carolina had only one player (Todd Steussie) as a top-10 cap charge (except kicker John Kasay and punter Todd Sauerbrun). Cleveland has five, the Packers have four and many other teams have too many high-priced players.

4. Be patient during the first three weeks of free agency: Let the market come to you. There is a long history of teams overpaying free agents during the first few weeks of buying. Only a precious few of these high-priced players who jump from their old team to a new team ever play in a Pro Bowl again. Most disappoint their new teams. Wait, if you can, and let the market settle down. I learned this one the hard way, and it looks like the Redskins are continuing to be early big spenders. ....

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