Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Finally! After a month of nothing but holdout talk from WR Javon Walker and DT Grady Jackson, its finally time to get some players into camp. Yesterday was the first day of camp, but all the veterans don't report until Wednesday. Also, QB Alex Smith finally signed with San Francisco, which should finally get movement on signing QB Aaron Rodgers (1st round), CB Nick Collins and WR Terrence Murphy (both 2nd round). It is always important to get players in for most of training camp, even players like Rodgers who shouldn't be playing much in 2005, because missing training camp during their rookie season essentially holds players back a season.

The NFL has been really slow in signing its first round picks this season; I'm used to the top pick signing soon after the draft, but this year it took almost three months. The biggest problem is that there is no salary cap in 2006, or something like that. I haven't paid too much attention to the issue because I expect the NFL and the players will renegotiate the labor agreement, and all the post-2005 rules will be changed next winter.

Reading the depth chart on packersnews.com, it lists CB Joey Thomas ahead of CB Ahmad Carroll at left cornerback. Despite all the criticism of Carroll, it is the first time I have actually seen it published that Thomas is ahead of Carroll (right next to a picture of Mike Sherman chewing out Carroll). As much as Carroll struggled last season, Thomas rarely played ahead of Carroll in 2004 and Thomas showed almost nothing when he did play. Hopefully one of these guys puts it all together to complement CB Al Harris this season.

Another interesting point, CB Mike Hawkins, the Packers obscure 5th round pick this past draft, is listed as the backup right cornerback behind Harris, ahead of guys like CB Chris Johnson and CB Jason Horton who have actually had a little NFL playing time. Either Hawkins has really impressed early in the minicamps, or the depth behind Thomas, Carroll and Harris is really weak.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Oh good, NT Grady Jackson has hired Drew Rosenhaus as his agent and is threatening to hold out. Since NFL teams rarely honor the contracts they negotiate with players, it is a bit hypocritical to insist all players honor their contracts too. Unfortunately, Rosenhaus was CB Mike McKenzie's agent last season during McKenzie's divorce from the Packers. The Packers lost out on the cornerback they really needed last season and McKenzie mailed it in when he did finally show up for the first few weeks. Hopefully, Jackson's holdout doesn't go the same route.

It is understandable that Jackson would want to improve what might be his last NFL contract, so he might holdout for some time. I still can't imagine WR Javon Walker will hold out for a significant length of time, although he is represented by Rosenhaus too. Walker is too young and probably too anxious to get back on the field, holding out for a season postpones unrestricted free agency by another season, and the Packers will hold much harder on Walker because Walker's demands will be at least 10 times Jackson's demands (probably even a lot more).

It seemed that Jackson's last contract was underpriced when he signed it in 2003, but he was coming off a season in which he just got cut by New Orleans. Jsonline.com compared Jackson to NT Pat Williams and NT Ted Washington, but neither of those players were cut in the middle of the 2003 season. The deciding factor in whether to negotiate with Jackson might be the play of NT James Lee and NT Donnell Washington. If new defensive coordinator Jim Bates feels comfortable with the play Washington and Lee, then the Packers might find no pressure to negotiate with Jackson and let him sit out the season.

The other problem with renegotiating either Jackson or Walker's contract is that the Packers still haven't signed their top draft choices. QB Aaron Rodgers contract will be bigger than the usual 24th pick's contract because quarterbacks usually receive bigger contracts. It is from April 2005, but John Clayton says the Packers have less than $5 million available under the salary cap, which is very little to work with after signing Rodgers. The Packers tight cap will probably hurt Jackson and Walker's wishes too.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The financial side of the NFL has always interested me because a team's ability to generate and spend revenues is just as important as its ability to scout and coach. Take Philadelphia and New England for example. Both teams had the best collection of talented players and coaches in the NFL during 2004. Another big plus for both teams is that they've greatly improved their revenues with new stadiums and have avoid salary cap problems. Both teams acquired a big star in 2004 (Philadelphia WR Terrell Owens and New England RB Corey Dillon) and neither team busted their salary cap (ala Baltimore in 2000) to do it. Both teams should not have a Tennessee-type salary cap roster purge in the near future. When an aging star plays out a contract (New England's CB Ty Law or Philadelphia's DE Hugh Douglass), they let other teams spend big money on them and sometimes the player eventually ends up back with the team after a season or two (Douglass and Trotter both returned to Philadelphia). The three financial steps that Philadelphia and New England follow to create a great team are to maximize revenue, maintain salary cap flexability, and avoid overspending on aging veterans.

This comes to mind because of John Clayton's article about the Packers annual report. It is a huge benefit for all NFL financial junkies that the Packers are the one NFL team that actually reports their financial position each year because they are the only publicly owned team. Clayton's article is about the NFL's overall financial condition and next collective bargaining agreement, which isn't what really interested me as much as his comments regarding the Packers financial future.

Clayton wrote "The Packers' $25.4 million profit showed a team can hustle and compete with the bigger cities. Revenue from the Packers Pro Shop and the new Atrium at Lambeau Field accounted for $23.1 million in local revenue. They made another $18 million through marketing. They maximized revenues by being aggressive and smart."

Clayton has reported that the Packers have followed the first financial step; maximize financial revenue. Hopefully this is a good sign that the Packers have the organizational structure to continue to the success of the past 12 seasons and avoid the ineptness that plagued the organization from the end of the Lombardi era to the beginning of the Holmgren/Wolf/Favre era. The Packers did manage to avoid overpaying for their aging veterans such as OG Marco Rivera, however, the Packers haven't done well at maintaining salary cap flexability and it has cost them players. The Packers had to let FS Darren Sharper and OG Mike Wahle go, although they both could be productive for the next few seasons, and they haven't had the ability to trade for a veteran, such as CB Patrick Surtain who went from Miami to Kansas City this offseason, who could have helped improve a poorly played position during the 2004 season. There will probably be a lot of change with the Packers after the 2005 season, both Mike Sherman and Brett Favre could be gone after it, but it is good to know that some financial steps for long term success are already well established in the organization.