Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Can of worms

Well, Tommy Maddox got his raise and he'll make $2.75 million in 2004. That's quite an increase from the $750K he was scheduled to make. Good for him. The only problem is that the Steelers, in giving Maddox a new contract, violated one of their long-time rules: don't renegotiate a new contract with more than one-year remaining on the current contract. Tommy was signed through 2006 and for the second straight summer he complained about being underpaid. This summer the Steelers finally did something about it -- and already questions are being asked.

One question in particular is, "I'm glad Tommy got his contract, but why not me?" Hines Ward was asking and he has a good point (Joe Starkey also has some good points on this story in today's Pittsburgh Tribune Review). His contract doesn't expire for another three years and currently the Steelers are gearing up to re-sign linebackers Kendrell Bell and James Farrior, who both have contracts that expire at then end of 2004. They've told Hines to be patient and they'll work out his deal probably sometime next summer.

That's all well and good if you're in the Steelers front office, but it doesn't do much to assuage any concerns Ward may have -- especially when players experience career-ending injuries with alarming frequency in the NFL.

That said, the Steelers contend that Maddox's situation was a unique one and that they don't plan on making another exception -- even for the best player on the team. And while Ward certainly doesn't seem happy, the good news is (and Starkey also points this out) is that there's nothing wrong with having players compete during contract years. Last year's team was 6-10 and some argue that complacency that comes with fat contracts may have been partly responsible. Maybe, but hey, why risk it.

Plus, if Hines does what he always does in terms of production, I'm pretty sure the Steelers will take care of him next offseason. Of course, I can easily say that since I have nothing at stake. I'm also curious what Plaxico Burress is thinking as he sees all this happening from the comforts of his home while continuing to miss practice over his current contract (and Mother's Day, too).