I posted a fan shot a few days ago about Dwayne Bowe's hold out status. As many of you undoubtedly know, Dwayne has until July 16th to sign an extended contract or, if he decides to play this season he will have to sign his franchise player tender and play for approximately 9 million dollars for 2012. Bowe will be 28 shortly after this season begins and I think that his hold out could easily go beyond the start of the regular season.
Why? Well, there are a number of issues that have coalesced to create somewhat of a perfect storm for mister Bowe in relation to his future in the NFL. Depending on how he and his agent (Todd France who also represents Eddie Royal among others) see things, the possibility of a long hold out is real. Do not think for one minute that D Bowe thinks that he has no leverage here. He knows he does and there are some signs this off season that would make it seem that Dwayne Bowe is no shoe-in for an easy deal.
Eddie Royal and his agent Todd France were playing both ends against the middle this off season. They were reportedly going to sign with the Redskins, which would have reunited Royal with his old coach in Mike Shanahan. The deal was reportedly for two years and worth up to some $12 milion, but the guarantee was uncertain. He eventually signed with our ol' buddies out in San Diego for a THREE year, $13 million deal. The main difference? Reports are that $6 million is guaranteed. For a guy with four years in the league that has never had a 1000 yd season and averages barely more than 2 TDs a season, that sounds like pretty good money. Of course it had nothing to do with panic mode because V Jack left town, right?
How would you compare Bowe's five years to Royal's four? Bowe has nearly averaged 1000 yds per season and scored over 7 TD's. Is he worth four times the guarantee? I'll bet that's pretty close to what he wants.
Before you answer that question, realize that D Bowe's receiving yards in his first five seasons have him setting at number 246 all time in the NFL right between Nate Burelson and Roger Craig, both of whom took quite a few seasons longer to achieve their place on that list than Bowe has. Burelson has played 8 seasons and Craig played 10. If Bowe can maintain his numbers there is no reason to believe he cannot end his career with easily over 10,000 yds receiving and be in the top 35-40 of all time. Would that propel Bowe in to a top 1 percenter? If Bowe had played his career to date with a Peyton Manning or a Drew Brees throwing him the ball, how many yards do you believe he would have?
It's this guarantee that drives players in the NFL today. Injuries are common place and have derailed many careers. Often times before an aspiring player was able to achieve the level of play that gives them a shot at a huge payday. D Bowe is no different. If fact, I would submit that Bowe's career achievement thus far, is the epitome of the player position that feels they MUST hold out in order to get what they want. The combination of his age, his earnings during his first contract in the NFL being fairly minimal in relationship to the goods he provided to the team, and the money that the NFL pays players with his prowess in general all point to the fact that Bowe will want to get that payday.
According to Roger Quiles (Juris Doctor Candidate, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, 2012.) who just wrote a very informative paper comparing the NFL and MLB collective bargaining agreements affect on hold outs, theorizing that the threat and fear of injury to NFL players is EXACTLY what drives holdouts in the NFL:
Generally, NFL contracts are incentive-laden, and players are only guaranteed a small portion of the overall contract due to the high risk of significant injury. The risk of a possible career ending injury creates the incentive for players to maximize their earnings while they are still physically able to perform in order to offset the future losses of a shortened career. This creates the demand for ever-increasing contracts. Conversely, the high risk of injury keeps the amount of guaranteed money that the team offers low.
The other factor here, of course, is the likelihood of that injury happening to any given player. Quiles addresses this in his paper as well.
To put the high risk of injury in perspective, 352 players were placed on the NFL's season-ending Injured Reserve this year, and missed on average 9.5 of the 16 games. Those players could fill 6.4 of the NFL's 32 teams.
If my math is correct, that is 20% of the players. Basically a one in five shot. No matter your thought process, as a player you have got to think about what happens to you when you get injured, not if you get injured. Particularly a player like Bowe who has demonstrated the ability to be unique in the league.
So, what is the player to do? If the team uses the franchise tag in this scenario, it would seem that they are inviting the possibility of a hold out. They are basically telling that player that they are willing to pay the league average and no more if the player is unwilling to accept what they think is fair, else why use the tag at all? If that player thinks they are worth more than that average or should be given a guarantee for the hard work they have put in instead, they may have no choice but to hold out and use their absence on the field as their final 'nuclear' weapon. I would say that the lockout demonstrates that these players (given the proper motivation and circumstance anyway) are nowhere near afraid of pushing that button marked in yellow and black.
We also know that Scott Pioli has made a few moves to try and shore up the WR corps in case Mr. Bowe decides to with hold the use of his skills for 2012. Devon Wylie, Steve Breston and Jon Baldwin all have potential. What they don't have are Bowe's stats in the bank.
Whether you think Bowe is a clown and trouble maker or a diva that was on Haley's leash is irrelevant here. The numbers are real and they will dictate how the two sides negotiate. Pioli isn't necessarily the bad guy here. He has the overall team's best interest in mind going forward...I mean, what if he does give Bowe that 30 million guarantee and Bowe tears his ACL right out of the box this year? He is putting the team's ability to recruit and attract a replacement in jeopardy for the next several years. Both sides in this deal have reasons for their actions and both must proceed as they think proper, whether a deal is agreed to or not.
So the game is played and both sides look for an edge. Scott Pioli trys to make moves that tell Bowe that if he won't agree to his terms, the team is willing to force him to sign the tender. Bowe and his agent do things to let Pioli know that he ain't skeered and is willing to hold out until he gets what he wants.
Bowe's agent met with Phil Emery back in February. It was about this time that Pioli made the public statement that the Chiefs had money under the cap to keep both Carr and Bowe.
Per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune on Feb 24th:
Emery visited with representatives of Bears players who are set to become free agents, according to sources, and also got together with Todd France, who doesn't have any current players on the Bears roster but does represent a pair of free-agent wide receivers in Dwayne Bowe and Eddie Royal. Emery knows the 27-year-old Bowe well from his tenure with the Chiefs.
Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli said before arriving at the combine his team would have about $38 million, which would leave enough space for the club to secure Bowe and cornerback Brandon Carr and leave room for plenty more transactions. So the chances of Bowe reaching the marketplace aren't good.
See how that works? One side makes a move and the other side counters. It's like chess. We know what happened to Carr. Is that evidence that Pioli's ultimate choice was to keep Bowe over Carr if circumstances made it impossible to keep both, or is this just evidence that Pioli plays hardball and will only go so far to keep some of the best players in the NFL on our roster? We simply don't know. We do know (as does Brian Waters) that Pioli will let players go before they are necessarily finished in the NFL.
I've seen quite a few APers here who refuse to believe that D Bowe is willing to lose a season to secure his future. To me, Bowe would be foolish not to employ every possible option to get his one and (probably) only shot at the windfall. If his agent is good, he will be telling him exactly that. There are also the fines associated for refusing to play. Quiles has an interesting and informative view of that part of this negotiation as well.
The incentive for a player not to holdout is too weak to have a viable impact. NFL teams can impose a maximum fine of $30,000 a day for players under contract who report to preseason camp late. Though fines can quickly accumulate over the course of a holdout, the prospect of a multi-million dollar contract softens the financial blow that the fines deal to the player. For instance Darrelle Revis of the Hets held out for thirty-six days prior to the 2010 season, resulting in fines totaling $578,305. His holdout ended when he signed a contract worth $46 million. In hindsight, the fines he incurred are paltry in comparison to the contract he signed.
If Bowe refuses to sign his tender, it isn't clear if he could be fined or not, but the above information would seem to indicate that it wouldn't matter much to him either way.
No matter how much we may want to believe that Bowe won't hold out, there is precedent for doing so. One notable example was Sean Gilbert in 1997 who set out the whole season from the Redskins. Quiles notes this in his paper.
The Redskins had offered him a contract of $20 million over five years, but Gilbert wanted $22.5 million across that time span. To prove his point, Gilbert sat out the entire 1997 season and, at its completion, signed instead with the Panthers for $46.5 million across seven years.
With the new rules in the latest CBA, a hold out like this has not yet been tried, so it is unclear whether the players have made gains or the owners have tightened up the rules enough to force a player to accept the fate that the team lays out for him.
With the current environment of the NFL being one where the players feel like they have to sue the league and the owners in order to get what they want, who knows how these hold outs will eventually end? The only thing certain here is that Bowe has the credentials and has a right to want his payday. What kind of ugly time bomb could the Mad Hatter (D Smith) left ticking in the CBA to give the players an edge? All that is left is finding out if Bowe and Pioli can agree on what that payday should be.
If Bowe doesn't take the field come the opening game of the 2012 season it won't be just the fans who lose. The list of losers will include the Chiefs, Scott Pioli and Clark Hunt and Dwayne Bowe as well. At some point, one side in this game has to blink. I hope something lands in Pioli's eye very soon.