As I was riding home from work tonite and listening to the pre-game hype for the season opener tonite (Colt's vs. Saints in Indianapolis) the NFL rumor reporter was being asked about the JaMarcus Russell situation. If you aren't aware of who Russell is, he's the #1 pick from the most recent NFL draft. He was the #1 number 1. First pick in the draft. Drafted by the Raiders, a team that could use some good luck for a change.
Sadly, their luck with the Russell hasn't been what they would have hoped. As usual, Russell is holding out for more money, feeling that as the #1 number 1 he should be able to demand a kings ransom and then some before he signs with the Raiders.
Russell isn't the first player to do this, and I'm sure he probably won't be the last, but it is yet another sign of just how screwed up things in the NFL are. Older players get kicked to the curb barely hearing a thank you, and more frequently hearing nothing at all as they are replaced with players that cost the teams less in salary in bonuses, and can perhaps play only slightly worse, or maybe a little better than those same cast off players. I've seen too many players find their careers over with early, and I know that the average career, in number of years, in the NFL is woefully small. Most players rarely even see a second contract, with the exceptions being the star Quarterback, or perhaps Runningback. Maybe a star defensive player here and there too.
Heaven forbid though that you are a lineman on either side of the ball. If so, you may see a 3 or 4 year career before you are taken out by injury, or before you are replaced by someone else that will cost less than what you are worth in your next contract.
This all reminds me that the NFL, and their teams (like the Raiders), need to stop the madness. They need to take a hardline against these players and their greedy agents and say enough is enough. Come up with a reasonable offer, say that this is the offer, take it or leave it by this deadline or find yourself sitting around waiting for another season and some other team to draft you and do the exact same thing.
The Raiders will likely not be the first team to actually follow-thru on that approach, and I really don't know which team might do it (if it was baseball I was writing about, I could point at Jerry Reinsdorf and tell you that he would certainly be the type to try it), but I hope that sooner, rather than later, some team in the NFL does it. Let some stupid player and their more stupid agent hold out for a ton of money and let 'em sit and rot for not just one season, but 2 or more if possible. Set first one example, and then have a few teams join in on the fun and do the same thing. Let 'em all institute some financial restraint and let them all get smarter about using the money to pay the players that are still on the teams, still practicing, and still playing.
I wish that the owners would work with the players union to shift the money around and get it out of the rookie salary pool and into the pool for established players, or even better get it into the pool of money that helps provide benefits for prior generations -- players that gave up their bodies and long term health for a chance to play in the NFL. Anywhere but into the hands of the greedy rookies and even greedier agents. Let those folks work for huge performance bonuses if they'll agree to it, but cap the salary levels back down near Earthly levels and use the guaranteed money to pay for players that actually deserve it.