Unsigned but practicing, Villanueva deserves a fair contract

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When players use the rules to their advantage in order to benefit their financial positions, fans tend to complain that the players are being selfish. When teams do it, fans tend to shrug and say, “Them’s the rules.”

And so at a time when plenty of fans are wagging fingers at players who are skipping voluntary workouts in order to leverage better financial terms in an industry where careers entail finite years and no equity, it’s fair to point out that Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva has no contract but is choosing to work out with the team as he awaits a long-term deal that the team has no legal obligation to give him, but nevertheless should. It’s also fair to point out that Steelers.com, the website owned by the team, is trying to put the squeeze on Villaneuva to trade his 2017 exclusive-rights free agent (i.e., not a free-agent) tender for 2017 and his looming restricted free agency tender for 2018 and his shot at the open market or franchise tag in 2019 for a deal that pays him well but not nearly as well as he could be paid if he waited for a shot at the open market.

The article points to the experience of former Steelers running back Willie Parker to advocate for Villanueva taking the best deal the Steelers are willing to offer with two years to go until free agency.

“Willie Parker used the bird-in-a-hand approach and ended up earning slightly more than $14 million over six seasons in the NFL, and he got to do all of that with one team,” Bob Labriola of Steelers.com writes. “He left the NFL with his name on two Lombardi trophies, he is a treasured member of the Steelers’ recent past, and he still enjoys all the rights and privileges that come with that status. There is a lesson somewhere in there for Alejandro Villanueva.”

Here’s a different lesson for Villanueva — tell the Steelers to stick it sideways. (It’s not really a lesson, but it was fun to type it.) The Steelers are trying to lowball Villanueva because they can, and they want to prey on the crappy circumstances that come from being undrafted to pay him less than he’s worth, both as a player and as a leader. The man who has appeared in every game over the past two seasons with 31 total starts should walk out and stay out until the team gives him a fair offer that rewards him for what he’s done and compensates him for what he’ll be expected to do.

Even if Villanueva sticks around, he should choose to go year to year, especially since by next year there could be a team willing to give up a late first-round pick for a chance to pry Villanueva away as a restricted free agent on a long-term deal closer to market value.

Whatever he chooses to do, Villanueva need to look out for his own interests. By not offering him the kind of deal he’s currently willing to sign and to use their in-house propaganda machine to try to pressure him to comply with a subpar deal, the Steelers are definitely looking out for theirs.

30 responses to “Unsigned but practicing, Villanueva deserves a fair contract

  1. The Bengals do the same thing with their undrafted and lower draftees. They usually end up winning a superbowl in New England or somewhere. Must be an AFC NORTH thing.

  2. Ask Owen Daniels about working out with the team (the Texans) without a contract. He injured his knee in practice while awaiting a new deal, and wound up losing a few mil. Houston paid him less because he was, at that point, damaged goods.

    Villanueva should hire a Steve Boros type agent to protect himself.

  3. Yeah it’s a lousy deal but it’s what the nflpa accepted. He can go year to year and take all the risk, but have the potential reward of a huge pay day in two years. Or take a deal that’s better now, but not nearly as much in two years. Players can’t have both long term security and huge pay days (well a few can, but not many).

    I’d rather see the Steelers give him a good deal and have him locked up for 4 years. But if he wants to maximize his earnings, he shouldn’t.

  4. Lets be fair here . The Steelers took an over sized tight end and made him into a quality left tackle . AV also worked his butt off to get to where he is today . I am sure the Steelers will be fair when the time comes . Brady takes less he is a team player etc . He will get paid in due time . As Ben AB and the rest of the team they value will get theirs .

  5. I think he will get signed but I also think they want to see what they have in Hawkins also before they do that. At worst he gets tagged next year while they work out a deal.

  6. Also settle down with the teams will be willing to give up a first for him. No team is giving up a 1st for a 30 year old tackle who has started for 3 years on an oline that can give him a lot of help. Munchak has a ton to do with it also.

  7. .
    His situation is similar to undrafted Patriots CB Malcolm Butler. He’s been making about 600k per year while being integral part in the Patriots winning 2 Super Bowls. This year, with his restricted free agent offer, he receive 3.9 million which is more than he made in his three previous years combined.

    Butler will hit free agency this offseason and hit the proverbial jackpot. He’ll probably get something in between Stephon Gilmore’s 14 million and Logan Ryan’s 10 million. As a Patriots fan, I hope that he does, because he’s earned it. I’ll be happy for Butler just as I was for Logan Ryan getting his 10 million dollar payday from the Titans.

    Villanueva should realize that quality LTs are a scarcity and RBs like Willie Parker are a dime a dozen. He was nothing more than the product of a superior offensive line, a quality QB and a first rate group of receivers..

  8. Villanueva, or better yet his representation, should be on every media outlet that will have him talking about how the Steelers are trying to short-change a combat veteran. That won’t sit well lunchpal crowds in Western, PA.

  9. The Steelers currently would owe him 615k this year and about 4m next year. Unless the Steelers are looking to do well more than they need to, the deal should start with that. Add another year or two around 9.5m to 14m, maybe guarantee the 615k, 4m, and some portion of the 3rd year and that should be the contract. 3 years, 14m with 7m guaranteed on the low end to 3 years, 18.5m with 10m guaranteed on the high end.

  10. AV has no leg to stand on. He is in the same boat as Malcolm Butler, just not as close to free agency. This happens often with undrafted FAs.

  11. “stick it sideways “. Love it Mike. I prefer shoving a pineapple up there backwards leaves first. I Cannot see the he NFL being here, as we know it, or don’t know it, more the. 10 years. I am white and even Inadmit it’s an old White mans owner league. Sad thing is if they close it down, which they will have to, all 32 owners would still be Billionairs. Hits time for huge changes and it goes beyond white and black separated locker rooms, which they are, it’s time. If the owners don’t change they are going to loose what amounts to lunch money for them. It’s time and believe me, it’s coming. All the best.

  12. “the Steelers are definitely looking out for theirs.”

    There’s a shocker. The Steelers are out to make the best deal for their team and trying to manage cap economics in the most efficient way possible.

    Nothing wrong with that and nothing wrong with Villanueva refusing to play along and take what you’re saying is a subpar deal if that’s really the case.

  13. Let’s not get all crazy here. Including his performance bonus he actually made almost $1,000,000 last year, not bad for technically his 3rd year, first year as a starter. He’s also going to turn 29 early in the 2017 season, so his next contract might be his last.

    There’s plenty of time, and the Steelers are more fair than most teams. They are usually right up against the cap – too often they overpay in my opinion, please see Ladarious Green, Lamar Woodley, etc. They don’t have to negotiate at all, as a restricted free agent he can only play in Pittsburgh this year barring a trade. They are negotiating with him anyways. He’s going to get paid, just not at the high tier level for left tackles.

    Go Steelers!

  14. Really because the Steelers are always up against the cap without signing free agents. You know what that tells me. That they take care of their players. Why is it that every player that leaves try’s to come back if they screw players? Why does every player that has come or gone to a different organization say it’s different there it’s a family there? Yeah it sure sounds like they screw over their players alright.

  15. I think that if a player wants a BIG contract EARLY, there should be a trade-off. For example, they should be willing to take a smaller deal in order to get the money now. Your choice. Either risk it for a year or two until you can get that MASSIVE payday, or take some good guaranteed money right now.

    I don’t understand why some teams give top of the line contracts to guys that they don’t have to.

    Just look at the Patriots. They probably told Malcolm Butler that if he wanted the money now, then he should be willing to take $8 to $10 million a season. His inexperienced agent probably asked for top shelf money, something like $14 to $16 million. The agent did not understand who he was dealing with.

    Since Butler and his agent tried to play hardball, Belichek just gave the money to Gilmore. I think in part he did this to send a message to other players, just like how he traded Jamie Collins to the worst team in football-sending a subtle message to the rest of the team.

    If AV wants the money now, let him take 4 years, $7.5 million a year, $30 million total, with $10 million guaranteed.

  16. He is the only weak link on that offensive line, if they would have kept Beachum they would be the best oline in the NFL.

    Big Ben played his entire career with awful left tackles besides the one yr Beachum came into his own.

  17. Pay the man. NFL contracts aren’t fully guaranteed. If you underperform the team wants players to take a pay cut or will get cut. But if you outperform your contract they expect you to honor your contract.

  18. “…fans tend to complain that the players are being selfish. When teams do it, fans tend to shrug and say, “Them’s the rules.””
    Hundreds to potentially thousands of players but only 32 teams. That’s why.

  19. I agree with Florio. He should hire Malcolm Butler’s agent. That will strike the fear of a god into the hearts of the Steelers.

  20. When the Patriots do this they get so much bad press but this is the Steelers. If they get caught doing HGH the league makes HGH legal.

    Must be nice being one of Goodell’s favorite special franchises

  21. This is why the Steelers are the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL. They spit on the players who care about the team and reward the players (Bell, Tiny Ben, A. Clown) who drag the team through the sludge.

  22. Funny, I don’t see Florio complaining when his beloved Patriots constantly low ball their players.

  23. “Willie Parker used the bird-in-a-hand approach and ended up earning slightly more than $14 million over six seasons in the NFL, and he got to do all of that with one team,” Bob Labriola of Steelers.com writes. “He left the NFL with his name on two Lombardi trophies, he is a treasured member of the Steelers’ recent past, and he still enjoys all the rights and privileges that come with that status. There is a lesson somewhere in there for Alejandro Villanueva.””

    So let me make sure I’m understanding.

    A 6-year NFL career that grosses 14 mil total is held out as an example of an NFL player SUCCEEDING in contract negotiations?!

    Shades of LaGarret Blount… that dude is 30 and has never gotten paid.

    Villanueva is one load “pop!” in his knee from being a historical NFL footnote. He should try to pry every penny he can out of the Steelers.

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