Tuesday February 16th, 2010

Today is your day. It's the first offseason Tuesday Mailbag, and rather than me blabbering about something for a few paragraphs, I'm going to hit a few more of your e-mail offerings, which were rather good this week. Here goes:

• AN INTERESTING QUESTION ABOUT SIGNING BONUSES. From Craig Edwards of Chicago: "You mentioned that some team may give Darren Sharper an $8 million signing bonus. Why would any team give any player a signing bonus this year? Isn't the point of the bonus so that the team can pro-rate it over the life of the contract to keep the cap at manageable levels? Shouldn't all teams, with free agents and draftees, take whatever money the signing bonus was going to be and put it in a guaranteed first year salary? That way, the only year the money is counted against the cap is the year in which there is no cap."

Look, I have no idea how teams are going to treat this free-agency season. From talking to general managers and club officials around the league since the Super Bowl, I believe strongly that most teams are going to sit on the sidelines early in free agency, which begins March 5, and try to find bargains among the unrestricted free agents. Sharper is one of those. And even though he's 34 and common sense would say teams shouldn't lay out any big guaranteed money for him, I have a feeling some team might want to pay for his leadership and playmaking ability, even if that may only last one year.

As for pro-rating the signing bonus in the contract because of what may happen in the future, no one knows what the future holds for contract structures and how signing bonuses will impact future salary cap years, if there even are any. It could be the Wild West out there.

SORRY STEVE. From Steve of Kansas City: "I read your whole article for the "Hall of Fame nugget or two." I am still waiting. I hope it is mentioned in the Tuesday column."

My apologies for the two nuggets I omitted yesterday, Steve. One is that I feel bad for several of the retired players who failed to make the Hall when we voted on Feb. 5. Some of them, such as tight end Shannon Sharpe, have a legitimate beef. There are seven tight ends in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Sharpe's receptions, yardage and touchdowns are all at least 20 percent greater than the totals of any of the seven incumbents.

I will continue to press for Sharpe's election. But the point I wanted to make about the process that goes on in the room is that I am one of 44 voters. I do write about the process quite a bit, perhaps more than my peers; and I Tweet about the process probably more than my peers. But at the end of the day, Hall election is a total democracy and whether or not I support a player or coach, at the end of the day I believe the selections are just and I believe the process is fair.

Two: Many of you have written and asked why there aren't former players and/or club officials who vote. That has been the No. 1 topic of disgruntlement since I've been on the committee. The problem with having smart former players and front-office people on the committee is that you would have to add 32 of them to the process -- one representing every franchise. Because if you had a wise old own like Ernie Accorsi (former GM of the Browns and Giants), then the Redskins and the Steelers and the Bengals would say, Hey, what about our guys?

I think it's important that the committee, as it exists now, interviews and relies on impartial testimony from as many people in and out of the game as it can uncover. But I'm not in favor of having 76 people in the Hall of Fame room discussing the candidates the day before the Super Bowl. I'm not sure we'd ever get anything done.

I'M SO SORRY. I WILL PASS THIS ALONG. From Ross of El Cerrito, Calif.: "Peter, I enjoy your column and it has been my Monday morning read for years. Unfortunately, I am not asking a question, but reaching out for some help and contacts. I live in California (49ers fan) and my girlfriend Jessica lives in Indiana and is a Colts fan. We were disagreeing on some things Super Bowl Sunday (saying I was feeling a Saints win was a BAD thing to say) and the result of the game really upset her.

"She was unreachable Sunday night and then Monday morning I got word she was on her way to work and hit a patch of ice and collided at high speed into a telephone pole. She was critically injured but it's now looking like she will survive. We were scheduled to meet in New York this week to see Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, but now I will be going to Indiana to see her.

"I know you probably get hundreds of these types of e-mails, but hopefully you can pass something along to someone in the Colts organization. I'm not sure what they could or would do for her, but something to help and brighter her day once she emerges from her coma may help give her the strength to fight on. I am currently trying to "rally the troops" to come up with some sort of fundraising concept to help with medical expenses. Her family is of modest means and she is facing at least a million dollars in medical bills. I know none of this is your problem, but I also know how you have helped and supported many people through your column. At the very least, thanks for giving this a read.

"P.S.: I disagreed with your take on my Niners last year, but will admit you were right. Be safe in your travels and thanks."

A terrible story. I will be sure to forward your e-mail to someone at the Colts. Good luck to you.

• SEAN PAYTON HAS A GOOD IDEA ABOUT THE LOMBARDI TROPHY. From Ryan H. of Vincennes, Ind.: "I love your columns and read everything you write. I think it's great that the Saints will take the Lombardi Trophy around Louisiana. When the Colts won Super Bowl XLI they took the trophy all around Indiana, even to my small town of Vincennes in South-Western Indiana. It's something I will always remember."

Sean Payton, on the night the Saints won the Super Bowl, told me he thought it would be a great idea if the Saints were allowed to treat the Lombardi Trophy something like the Stanley Cup. It's been such a life-long goal of so many players, coaches and staff members, Payton reasoned, that everyone should be able to spend some time with it. In yesterday's column, GM Mickey Loomis told me a great suggestion had come from a security officer at the Super Dome: Why not take the trophy to all 64 parishes in the state of Louisiana? I hope the Saints do it. And I hope the NFL isn't too proud to copy a great way of sharing a championship that the NHL has established.

• LOTS OF PEOPLE HAVE AN OPINION ABOUT THIS: From Dan of Salem, Mass.: "You asked for opinions about whether your readers want to hear about the labor tog-o-war between NFL Players and owners. For this fan, the answer is a big NO. I just want to enjoy my football without worrying about 2011. If they lock-out or strike, that's their problem. The NFL, both players and owners, will suffer. Simple little case study, has the NHL ever recovered from its strike? I personally have not watched an NHL game since the strike. (Although I may have peeked at the Classic in Boston.) There is plenty of college football should the pros and the owners forget about the great life football gives them. I don't want to hear any whining in the meantime."

We've had a lot of people check in via email and Twitter, about whether I should cover the labor dispute weekly in this column. And my tabulator at SI.com tells me the sentiment is about 55-45 in favor of me writing what I know about this issue. Not a landslide, I know, but as the weeks go on, as I know something about the negotiations, I will pass it on in as much detail as I can without boring you to tears. I've heard from some of you that you'll simply skip on to the next item in the column, which sounds like a good option.

• THANK YOU. From Dan of Sugar Land, Texas: "Relative to your question about how much you should write about the potential NFL lockout -- I think this is what a lot of us love about your MMQB column. The fact that you respect your readers and our opinions about your work. Personally, I trust you to make the right decision about the depth of coverage of the lockout, but ... since you asked ... here is one thing to keep in mind.

"Please, try to avoid the terrible trap into which many of today's 24/7 journalists have fallen. It is what my wife and I call the "Michael Jackson is still dead" style of reporting. If you truly have some new nuggets to pass along to us that are interesting and relevant to the subject -- we are all ears. We don't need to hear recycled information, total hearsay, or rehash of the obvious. Thanks for all you do and thanks for asking. By the way, the one thing I never tire of hearing are your updates on Sgt. Mike McGuire."

My answer is I have the exact same feeling about an industry that generates $8 billion a year and makes untold millions of people happy. I can only hope, for the sanity of us all, that somebody finds a way to bridge the enormous gap between the two sides.

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