Friday, September 16, 2011

Creative accounting, a child with a gun and a Croupier

Okey dokey, I promised I would get round to covering a bunch of stuff and today I've found the time to slot it all in. First on the list of things to address was the Salary Cap issue over the next few years.

Many people have been wondering how some teams in the league - and indeed the league at large - is going to reconcile some of the requirements for minimum spending. Specifically this season the 32 teams must spend between them 99% of the value of the salary cap (cap = $142.4 million per team) in real cash, not just fiddled accounting figures. In 2012 that number will come down to 95% across the league as a whole and then from 2013 till 2020 each team must individually spend at least 89% of the cap in actual, real cash.

On the face of it that seems like an impossible challenge. For the entire league to spend 99% of the cap in real cash? Surely that means every team would have to spend to the wall to make it happen? No more cheap skating for the Bills, Bengals and Buccaneers. Everyone must pull their weight. After all, the Cowboys, Redskins and Patriots (and now the Eagles) can only spend so much before they will start going over the cap. Right?


Basically the league has a method of continuing to fiddle the figures for the next nine years (remember, no opt outs). And it all comes down to two words;

1) Signing,
2) Bonuses,

Signing bonuses will be key to helping teams push up their real terms cash spend each year, while also allowing them to cook the books to some degree in terms of the official salary cap. The reason for this is because signing bonuses count as a cash spend in the first year that the contract is signed, but for the purposes of the salary cap the value of the bonus can be spread out over the life of the contract.

So let's just say that your favourite team gives its quarterback a shiny new five year contract with a $10 million signing bonus. That ten million has to be paid now, this year, to the player. That money counts towards your teams 'real-terms' cash spend for the season. But in salary cap terms that $10 million is spread over the next five years, with $2 million in cap being attributed to each of the next five years.

As I said earlier, what this allows teams to do is to bump up their cash spend for each year so they don't get into trouble with the NFLPA, while also allowing them to keep their long term salary cap down, leaving them plenty of future wiggle room to mess with the books and fit everyone in. Pretty clever if you ask me. It also helps to explain why it took so little time for 31 of the 32 teams to come back and say yes to the deal (the Raiders abstained, possibly because Al Davis was still in bed). I think the owners got themselves a nice little number with this, especially with the rookie salary cap thrown in as well.

Now onto fun with Plaxico Burress. Or should that be at Plaxico Burress?

Definitely at. See last week it came to light that Burress had given an interview to 'Men's Journal' for their October issue (this was before he signed with the Jets) where he laid out some of his issues with his former coach Tom Coughlin and his former team mates. Some of the stuff he said just made me laugh.

"Man, we're paid too much to be treated like kids. He doesn't realize that we're grown men and actually have kids of our own." - Yeah Plax, because you really demonstrated to Coach Coughlin that maturity and responsibility of yours... by illegally carrying a firearm and then shooting yourself in the leg with it. Nice work son.

It doesn't end there though. Burress also aired his opinion on New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg who had called for Burress to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Burress described it as ".. totally wrong, stacked those charges so high, I had to go to jail." Yeah, I mean what other criminals get sent to jail huh? And don't you just feel sorry for him?

I mean all he did wrong was to illegally carry around a firearm (he had no license) and then negligently discharged it in a place packed full of innocent bystanders. It's not like he set a bad example for young people now is it? Or, you know, seriously endangered a club full of patrons? Na, nothing that bad. Certainly not worth sending him to jail over.

The best bit I saved to the end. "... but didn't hurt no one but himself."

Yeah, you didn't. All you did is shoot yourself in your own stupid leg. But here's the thing. The gun was tucked in his waistband and slipped down. In grabbing for it, that's when he pulled the triiger by accident and discharged the weapon. Now this time he got lucky. But with the weapon slipping freely down his leg that could have easily ended up pointed at somebody. Instead of shooting himself in the leg, he could have easily ended up shooting someone else in the stomach.

The fact he got lucky on this occassion doesn't preclude the fact that what he did was incredibly stupid and he shouldn't be in the league. How in the hell do you expect young people to turn their back on things like gang violence when at the same time you're sending the message to them "oh it's cool, if you get into trouble then just let it all blow over for a few years and then come right back and keep making the money". Thank you Goodell, you dumb fuck.

And finally we see the return of Lombardi Watch, which has nothing to do with predicting the Super Bowl winner and everything to do with keeping an eye out for the odd article written by writer Michael Lombardi, a former front office personnel guy with teams like the Raiders. Indeed, perhaps that last bit about the Raiders helps explain why Lombardi makes some of the choices he does when talking about personnel.

In one of his latest articles he brought back something I hated from last year; his red and blue chip rankings. Basically he takes all the players in the NFL and gives certain players blue chips and some red. The blue chippers, if memory serves me, are supposed to be the top ten at their position, and the red chippers the next 5 guys after that. Or something.

Except half the time he wouldn't even have the required number of players in each group, with eleven blue chippers in one position group and just three in another etc. It all made no sense and that's why I hated the article. The comments section of his article makes particularly fun reading, as a legion of NFL fans descend to point out the flaws in the article and tell Lombardi to shut the fuck up.

Well he did it again, only this time he assigned points to the various chips (based on his perceived worth of positions) and then ranked the teams according to those points. Here is the article with the final rankings. You should read it. It's the best comedy sketch you'll see this year. How else can you explain his decision to put teams like the Bengals, Browns, Seahawks, Cardinals, 49ers and Panthers all finishing above the Lions?

The trouble as I see it with his article is not giving enough credit to certain players on certain teams. Take the Bills for example, who are rock bottom of the pile after only receiving one 'red chip' for defensive tackle Kyle Williams. What about corner Drayton Florence and safety Jarius Byrd? Or inside linebacker Nick Barnett, formerly of the Packers? Or running back Fred Jackson?

Next is the Raiders. Richard Seymour got a red chip and that's where it ended for the Raiders. So no red chip for the pass rush capable linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (nine sacks last year)? What about second year receiver Jacoby Ford, whose speed lit up the NFL last season? Or running back Darren McFadden? Maybe a red for kicker Sebastian Janikowski? No?

Yet Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis gets a blue chip instead of red? Lions receiver Calvin Johnson only gets a red chip, not a blue? (seriously, check the article, I'm not making that up). Redskins safety O.J. Atogwe somehow is good enough to get a red, but Brian Dawkins of the Broncos gets nothing, nor does Broncos corner Champ Bailey. Cowboys receiver Miles Austin only gets a red not a blue? And Cowboys defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL right now, only gets a red? But Buccaneers corner Aqib Talib gets a blue chip?

The list just goes on and on. Dolphins linebacker Cameron Wake had more sacks than Clay Matthews last year, but Wake is a red chip to Matthews's blue? Vincent Jackson of the Chargers only red, along with Chargers team mate Shaun Phillips (tied for 10th most sacks last year, along with blue chippers such as Terrell Suggs and Jared Allen)?

It just makes no sense at all and these are the articles that I hate the most from Lombardi, when they try and make him into a journalist or an analyst. Lombardi is at his best explaining why he thinks teams made certain moves, when they make him put on that front office hat and give us the cold, hard business reasons why teams cut players, give players the types of contracts that they do etc, and also explaining how all the office stuff like the salary cap works.

When he writes articles like this, which seem very forced, it just ends up as total garbage. Like my weekly picks. The first half of which will be done tomorrow.

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