$6 million signing bonus for Bubba? TE Bubba Franks finally signed a contract with the Packers after remaining a free agent ever since the Packers slapped the transition player tag on him back in March. The signing bonus is one of the top 5 largest signing bonus ever paid by the Packers, only QB Brett Favre, DE KGB, FS Darren Sharper and WR Antonio Freeman have ever gotten more. Should the Packers have paid this much for Bubba? If they had this much cap room available, should they have used it to try and resign G Marco Rivera or G Mike Wahle instead? Should they have used the money to cut and resign FS Darren Sharper?
Bubba is a three time Pro Bowl tight end. He has developed into a very good receiver after starting out in his rookie season with a bad case of the drops. He never has too many catches or too many receiving yards, but he always catches a few touchdowns, which may be more an indication of playing with a great quarterback. He is an excellent run blocker and deserves credit for contributing to the great Packer run offense in 2003 and pretty good run offense in 2004. He plays a position without a lot of depth around the NFL, and some teams seem plagued to never have a good tight end (Hello Chicago!) so it is probably a good idea to keep a good one once you've got him. He is only 28 years old and is likely to continue to play well for at least two more seasons.
However, Bubba had been a free agent for months now, and had not received an offer from any other team, as far as had been reported. If another team had signed Bubba, they wouldn't have had to pay any compensation for him, because the Packers only used the transition tag and not the franchise tag. Maybe teams weren't interested in pursuing Bubba because they knew the Packers would match any offer. Maybe no other team in the NFL was interested in Bubba. If the Packers had held a hard line for Bubba, what were his options? No other team appeared interested in signing him. Would he sit out a season? If Bubba had no other options and had to eventually sign with the Packers, why give him one of the richest deals in team history?
It is a mixed signing. There is a lot of good although it looks like the Packers didn't have to overpay for Bubba. Instead they gave him big money anyway. It is a good signing for the 2005 season, but the Packers might come to regret it by 2007 if Bubba doesn't age well. I have heard criticism on the radio by Peter King of SI that the Packers only spent $50,000 in signing bonuses this offseason on defensive players when they knew that their defense needed help. I didn't think they had the cap room for a multi-million signing bonus, but apparently they had it for Bubba, although most NFL teams only spend modest amounts on their tight ends. It seems like an odd allocation of money and cap room for a team tight against the salary cap.