Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Contracts that aren't what they seem

Well Hines Ward can take solace in the fact that Tommy Maddox probably won't come close to earning anywhere near the $14 million deal he signed a few weeks ago. Like most NFL contracts, this one is not guaranteed and it's laced with incentives that will be all but unattainable after the 2004 season because this year's first round pick, QB Ben Roethlisberger, is expected to take over the offense.

In fact, as Ed Bouchette writes, not much has changed from Maddox's previous contract:
Under what basically is a one-year contract extension through 2007, Maddox would have to remain the Steelers' starting quarterback -- and keep rookie Ben Roethlisberger on the bench for the next four years -- to have a chance at earning more than $7 million over the life of the new deal.
Bouchette goes on to mention the specifics of the deal and one part in particular raised(at least in my mind) some questions.

Passer rating: Between 75-79 -- $25,000; 80-84 -- $50,000; 85-89 -- $75,000; 90-94 -- $100,000; 95-99 -- $150,000; 100-up -- $200,000
This incentive immediately caught my eye because Maddox will get $25,000 for having a below average QB rating. Last season, the average QB rating was 80.2 Maddox's was 75.3 and we all know how that turned out. In fact, taking a closer look at last season's numbers, QB's with ratings at 75.3 or less won on average, 5.5 games and lost 10.5 games. QB's with ratings above 75.3 won 9.8 games and lost 6.2 games. Hmmm. Maybe there's a relationship there.

Granted, the 6-win season doesn't fall squarely on Maddox's shoulders, but he is the face of the offense, and by default (right or wrong) quarterbacks generally are first in line to take the fall for poor offensive performance. Either way, my point is that if anything, Maddox should have to give the Steelers $25,000 if he has another 70-something QB rating in 2004. [Just for completeness, QB's having ratings in the 80's last season won 9.3 games (and lost 6.7); QB's having ratings from 90-94 averaged 11 wins (5 losses); QB's having ratings from 95-99 averaged 10.5 wins (5.5 losses) and a QB rating over 100 led to 12 wins in 2004 (Steve McNair was the only QB to go over 100)]

There is also an incentive concerning Maddox making the Pro Bowl:
Honors: Pro Bowl -- $100,000; First team All-Pro -- $100,000; Second team All-Pro -- $50,000
Because the offense should again be geared towards the run and because Maddox is often described as a 'gunslinger' (read: takes way too many chances in the passing game), this will be the toughest incentive for Maddox to achieve.

Knowing that, the Steelers might as well make the bonus for making the Pro Bowl something of the order of $20 million. That way, if the Steelers go in the tank early, at least there will be some reason to still watch the games. Pittsburgh can go to an all-out air assault -- complete with five receiver sets, with Maddox throwing the ball 60 times a game.

This will accomplish a couple of things. First, Ben Roethlisberger will definitely be the starter in 2005 if for no other reason than no human can withstand being sacked 150 times in one season -- and that's exactly what will happen in the 'new offense.' Second, by having Maddox throw every down you can pretty much bet that he'll have 30 TDs -- which on the surface are Pro Bowl numbers -- but he'll also have 50 interceptions (as would any QB who spent most of the game trying to avoid being the filling in a Tony Siragusa sandwich) -- so the Steelers are safe on the $20 million bonus. And finally, all this passing will mean the Bus will still be fresh for another go in 2005!

Of course I'm kidding, and not too long ago Kordell made the Pro Bowl only because the Steelers were such a ball control offense. When he was forced to throw he often struggled. I've really strayed from my original point -- Tommy's happy, Hines can take comfort in the fact that Tommy will never see most of the $14 million, and in fact, part of Tommy's deal can be used to re-sign Hines next season. See, it always works out. Now, to figure out a way to get Plax to practice.