When a player has outperformed a slotted rookie contract, it’s easy to support his quest for a new deal. When a veteran while on the open market signs a multi-year deal and complains with half of the contract remaining, it’s hard to feel sorry for him.
But that’s precisely what Bears linebacker Lance Briggs wants all of us to do.
He has defended his quest for a new contract and his demand for a trade, only three years after signing a six-year, $36 million contract. Now that he has pocketed the bulk of the money over the first three years of the contract, he wants more than $3.65 million in 2011.
Briggs should have thought of that before signing a six-year deal that pays him only $3.65 million in the fourth year.
“The main ingredient here, based off my decision, is to get something,” Briggs said Monday, via Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com. “To have management even be willing to talk. Whether it be, let’s deal with it at the end of the year, let’s deal with it after the season, then I have something to work with. But when the organization or management says we’re not talking now, we’re not talking ever, that puts me in a position where I know my days are numbered.”
There are serious flaws in Briggs’ logic. The Bears’ decision to hold Briggs to his contract means only one thing: The Bears want Briggs to honor his contract. It doesn’t mean that they’re planning to cut him, even though they have the right to do so whenever they want.
“In the NFL, there aren’t any guaranteed contracts. If I underperform, owners will cut me,” Briggs said. “They have the right to do that any time. They can cut me right before I’m supposed to get a bonus in March. For a player, we have every right to ask for a renegotiating, to ask for a trade, or to hold out.”
We’ll agree with him on the first two points. A player has a right to ask for a new deal, and a right to ask for a trade. But there is no “right” to hold out. By holding out, Briggs would be breaching his contract, subjecting himself to fines in the amount of $30,000 per day, along with the forfeiture of a portion of his signing bonus.
And the signing bonus is why Briggs agreed to a six-year deal. Given the amount of money he wanted to receive up front, he had to commit to a deal of that length. He seems to understand that.
“If you understand how the [salary] cap works, you have to structure contracts in certain ways,” Briggs said. “You have to spread it out over six years so you don’t count too much against the cap. You have other players that have to be paid at the time, and they tell you, we have to save some of these dollars to pay some of the other players too. So you sign the deal you have to sign at the time. There are things the owners will not budge on.”
Still, Briggs signed his current deal as an unrestricted free agent. If he didn’t like what the Bears were offering, he could have signed with another team. And if he wanted to have another crack at the open market sooner rather than later, he should have signed a shorter-term deal.
Either way, Briggs’ situation is fundamentally different from that of Chris Johnson or DeSean Jackson. Briggs signed his deal as an unrestricted free agent, he has gotten paid a lot of money, and now he wants more than he’s supposed to get. It just doesn’t work that way, and the sooner Briggs realizes that the sooner he can focus fully and completely on earning his pay in 2011 and beyond.