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The NFL Contract: A Meaningless Piece Of Paper

One headline coming out of the NFL yesterday was news that wide receiver Andre Johnson skipped the first day of OTAs in hopes to gain a new contract from the Houston Texans. That got me thinking - how much pull would a player with five years remaining on his current deal, one that was agreed to just three seasons ago, have with the team's front office? Of course, a player that's considered the best wide receiver in the NFL(Fitzgerald has something to say about that) would seem to have loads of leverage.

Johnson led the league in receiving yards the past two seasons and has been one of the most consistent, dominant wide receivers in the NFL. He's clearly the Texans best player and has never been one to speak negatively of the team nor the organization. Give him a new deal right? Considering his current deal is far from over, and is a hefty contract at that, things may not be that easy. Obviously the no-show is to garner some attention from the front office in hopes to re-work his current deal, but may also have to do with the fact that Johnson is underpaid. I dug up some of the top wide receiver's salaries from the last two seasons and totaled them, which is shown below.

Wide Receiver Salary
Larry Fitzgerald $21,857,770
Randy Moss $20,514,000
Roy Williams $18,694,820
Greg Jennings $16,943,460
Andre Johnson $16,700,000

As you can see, Johnson falls below other wide receivers that he has out-performed the last two seasons. Not on the list is wide receiver Brandon Marhsall, who was acquired by the Miami Dolphins this past March and was awarded the highest paid contract for a receiver at 5-years, $50 million. Should the Texans agree to Johnson's request - and they likely will - who's to stop other players with 5-6 year deals left to request new contracts? I believe that there should be a line drawn at some point. A contract is an agreement that should be honored, unless of course, a player out-plays their current deal.

It seems that most players that hold out and skip practice are wide receivers - the Brandon Marshalls, the Chad Ochocincos, the Anquan Boldins of the world. While the wide receiver position is a skill position that generates a high amount of "big" plays, rarely do we ever see a receiver take over and win a game(with Larry Fitzgerald in the playoffs two years ago being the exception). The receiver is only as good as his quarterback, and if the ball isn't being thrown their way - or accurately - they can't change a game alone. How often do we see Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Donovan McNabb hold out for a new contract?

If the Texans give Johnson a new deal, the ramifications could be high. Players may take notice and disregard their current contract in order to generate a new one from their front office. Handling Johnson's contract situation should be done delicately, because once the first domino falls, the rest are soon after.

Luckily, the Cardinals have handled contract situations very well the last few years and appear to stand pat at player's requests. Anquan Boldin was dished out - nearly two years after he requested a new deal. Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle weren't resigned considering the Cardinals weren't going to give them the amount of money they were asking for. Darnell Dockett- while I believe deserves a new contract - has not been approached for a new deal despite his requests, and he's learned that complaining will not help. The Cardinals and Ken Whisenhunt have carved a new attitude in Arizona, one that awards the players that deserve new contracts, but only when the time is right.