Friday, April 17, 2009

Men behaving badly

Another pouting football player has gotten his just reward.

The Buffalo Bills have wrapped up a deal that will send offensive tackle Jason Peters to the Philadelphia Eagles for three draft choices, including a first rounder later this month. Peters will get a fat new contract, perhaps by Saturday.

From a purely football standpoint, the deal can't be considered great news for the Bills. Peters was one of the few players on the team that could be considered a candidate for the Pro Bowl in a given season. He made it during the last two seasons, although there is some evidence that last year's pick was based on reputation. Still, good offensive linemen don't grow on trees, and it's going to take some time to develop a replacement -- time that Bills' fans may not feel like granting after three straight 7-9 seasons. For all the talk about how playing together and chemistry are so important for an offensive line, the Bills' group will be practically starting over in 2009. That doesn't sound like a way to make the playoffs.

Peters, you might recall, decided early in 2008 that he was underpaid and stayed out of touch with the Bills through the beginning of the regular season despite having a relatively large contract, albeit one that didn't represent his market value. He tried again to negotiate a new deal in 2009, and got nowhere.

This is not a ramble about Peters' contract demands. If I'm a Pro Bowler and I see a rookie making twice as much money as I'm scheduled to make, I have a reason to gripe. The current system rewards top rookies financially while penalizing players like Peters who were free agents and thus will never catch up to those who got those big bonuses out of college.

It's not even a ramble about how Peters should have been happy about making something like $5 million, especially since no one put a gun to his head to sign a contract, and that plenty of people would take 1/100th of that salary. The NFL doesn't exist in the real economic world, and Peters was a slight victim. I'm fond of saying that salaries are just a way of keeping score when it comes to players rating themselves against others; you could decrease everyone's salary by 90 percent and you'd still have the same arguments.

So what is it a ramble about? Well, to paraphrase a line from a Billy Crystal movie, he could have been nicer.

Peters just stayed home last year before the season started, didn't talk to the Bills, didn't do anything but let them negotiate with themselves. Coach Dick Jauron said he didn't talk to Peters from January to late August. I don't discount the public relations aspects of these negotiations, and Peters was a loser there. Would have it hurt to be, well, polite?

Along these same lines, the Broncos picked up a new coach in Josh McDaniels this season, and he talked -- talked -- about trading Jay Cutler in order to acquire Matt Cassel from New England. That was enough to send Cutler into a tizzy, and demand a trade. Cutler couldn't even be bothered to return phone calls from team members, including owner Pat Bowlen. That was enough for Bowlen, who had never had a player not even talk to the guy signing the seven-figure paychecks. So Cutler was sent to the Chicago Bears.

Business is business in pro sports, and that's fine. But a little civility along the way wouldn't hurt.

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