Business of Football: Rodgers Speaks, Vinatieri Was Almost a Packer, Jones Trade Will Cost the Falcons

The latest on the standoff in Green Bay, plus a little-known story about a legendary kicker, and two high-profile players hoping to make it in new places.
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Welcome to June in the NFL, a month when—after a couple of transactions for cap-bloated teams to push cap pain into next year—the league takes a breath. Teams will soon disperse for a monthlong hiatus before returning for the grind of the 2021 season. However, as readers of this space know, the business of football never really slows down. Here’s my perspective on some recent topics in the news.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers

The Rodgers-Packers imbroglio continues

Aaron Rodgers spoke last week, while vacationing in Hawaii and forfeiting his $500,000 workout bonus (again, blame me for those bonuses, as I started implementing them 15 years ago when I worked for the Packers as a “financial bribe” to spend the offseason in Green Bay).

Aaron obviously didn’t want to comment on his standoff, but when pressed (during an appearance on SportsCenter) he mentioned “culture” and “people” at the Packers. This confirms my thoughts expressed here in recent weeks: that this is much more personal than business, that there is a deep fissure and wide chasm between him and the organization. And again, as for contract improvements possibly smoothing things out, the sides can’t even get to that until there is some kind of personal reckoning between the key parties involved. It is now crystal-clear that Aaron feels that there has been a breach of trust between him and the front office, probably more a cumulative one than one based on a single incident or transaction.

I do feel for the Packers here: It is hard for a team to be completely honest with a player about his future, in part because there are always things that can happen to alter the plan. Teams want to maintain as much flexibility as they can and do not want to be caught saying something they can’t take back.

I also know this about Aaron: He is smart and calculating, and can put people, as he calls it, “on blast.” Family members, business associates and former teammates have felt that from him.

We are still where we have been on the bottom line: The Packers aren’t trading Rodgers, and Rodgers can’t trade himself. Stay tuned.

adam-vinatieri-colts-retired

A kicker for the ages … with a kicker

I was lucky enough to know Adam Vinatieri, who retired last week, up close and personal. Here is some perspective on Adam and his astounding longevity: I was Adam’s agent before I joined the Packers (and found Adam another agent). That was in … 1999! Onto the Hall of Fame.

What you may not know about Adam is that he was this close to becoming a Packer. Adam became a free agent in 2006, the same year we lost our kicker, Ryan Longwell, to the Vikings in free agency. Playing on our prior relationship and friendship, Adam agreed to visit the Packers. At first, I thought he was just going to use us to get more money from the Patriots, something I could understand and I would have helped him with if he wanted me to. However, the more we talked, the more it became clear that he was dead-set on leaving New England. And after having a nice dinner together, I went to bed truly believing that Adam was going to be a Packer.

The next morning, however, things changed. Adam called with an apologetic tone, treating me more as a friend and former client than as a team executive. He sighed and said, “Andrew, [Bill] Polian [the general manager of the Colts] called. I gotta go there. It’s a dome!” The Colts offered less money than we did, but they had something we could not compete with: the opportunity to kick in a dome, which Adam thought (correctly) would extend his career by years. I sometimes think, as I do now, that if Polian hadn’t called that night, Adam would have been kicking at Lambeau Field, and we never would’ve drafted Mason Crosby the next year. The world works in mysterious ways.

Julio out of Atlanta? Yes, and it will cost the Falcons big

Julio Jones said that he was done with the Falcons on television last week, although it seemed clear he didn’t know the conversation was being televised. The Falcons were reportedly upset with the interview and complained to the league in order to have it provide some kind of reprimand to Fox. I understand the complaint; teams are always upset when they feel they have been competitively disadvantaged and want the league to “do something” about it.

However, here’s the reality with the Falcons: The whole league has known that the Falcons were going to trade Jones for months, waiting to transact the trade until after June 1 to spread their cap charges over two seasons. So now they’re upset that Jones wants out? Please.

The Falcons now have to deal with the consequences of a massive contractual mistake. They negotiated an extension with Jones in 2019, putting him at the top of the wide receiver market at $22 million a year with $64 million guaranteed. Those extension years start in … 2021!

I know I am a broken record with the shaking of my head at massive contract mistakes like those made with Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, but here is another. The Falcons will trade Jones and take on $17.5 million in a dead-cap charge this year and another $7.75 million next year while he plays for another team. The 2019 extension has become a disastrous contract decision by the Falcons, one for which they will pay the price for another 18 months. The NFL cap does not forgive.

As for Jones’s new team, it will inherit only Jones’s $15.3 million salary, or maybe less. If the Falcons want to gain better draft compensation, they could pay some of that money—in the form of a bonus before the trade—to lower the new team’s obligation and garner a better draft pick. We saw this last month when the Panthers gave Teddy Bridgewater a $7 million parting gift before trading him to the Broncos.

Tebow is business as usual

There is much consternation and controversy about the Jaguars’ signing of a backup tight end who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2012. While I understand that the name Tebow is triggering for many, well, relax.

The Tebow signing is simply a high-profile example of something that happens in business and sports every day: hiring decisions made based on friendships, past relationships and inherent biases. Urban Meyer, the new coach of the Jaguars: 1) likes and respects Tebow and what he can do for his team, and 2) could not give a damn what other people think about it. And again, this happens all the time in the NFL: Coaches and general managers bring in players, coaches, scouts, trainers, cap experts, etc. whom they know and would feel comfortable having around. Tebow is just the latest example.

My question is more for Tebow, who has plenty of money, fame and opportunities in business and broadcasting. Why does he want to get banged around as a backup tight end on a bad team? Sports is a powerful drug.

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