Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Review of Contracts for 2010 Packer Draft Picks & Corey Hart's Extension

Some of you might be wondering why I named this edition of Wednesday What Happened "Cheesehead Contracts". Originally the post was going to be an in-depth post that focused solely on the contracts given out by Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson to the players Thompson drafted in the 2010 NFL Draft but then Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin signed Corey Hart to an extension. As a result, this "Recent Cheesehead Contracts" post encompasses all the new deals given out by Ted Thompson and Doug Melvin.

2010 Green Bay Packer Rookie Contracts:
The Packers' rookie pool for 2010 is $3.863 million so despite the fact that the NFL is operating without a salary cap on the entire roster this year, there is still a salary cap on rookies salaries for the 2010 NFL Season. That means that Ted Thompson can pay the seven players he drafted $3.863 million for 2010.

Every 2010 Green Bay Packer draft pick besides first round pick Bryan Bulaga (Iowa, OT) signed a four-year contract with base salaries of $320,000 in 2010, $405,000 in 2011, $490,000 in 2012, and $575,000 in 2013. The only difference is the signing bonus that each player received:
- 2nd round pick Mike Neal (Purdue, DE) received a $1.16 million signing bonus.
- 3rd round pick Morgan Burnett (Georgia Tech, S) received a $895,100 signing bonus.
- 5th round pick Andrew Quarless (Penn State, TE) received a $182,425 signing bonus
- 5th round pick Marshall Newhouse (TCU, OL) received a $149,850 signing bonus.
- 6th round pick James Starks (Buffalo, RB) received a $100,300 signing bonus.
- 7th round pick C.J. Wilson (East Carolina, DE) received a $50,354 signing bonus.

Packers' first round draft pick, 23rd overall, Bryan Bulaga (Iowa, OT) received a five-year contract worth $14.75 million with $8.76 guaranteed. That is a pretty good deal for Bulaga, especially considering the player selected one pick after Bulaga by the Dallas Cowboys, wide receiver Dez Bryant, signed a five-year contract worth $11.8 million with $8.4 million guaranteed. Furthermore, the player selected 23rd overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher (the main character in The Blind Side), received a five-year contract worth $13.8 million with $7.8 million guaranteed.

Bulaga, Neal, and Burnett (assuming they are healthy) will make the 53-man roster based on their draft status and guaranteed money received. With all of the young, quality depth on the Packers roster Quarless, Newhouse, Starks, and Wilson are going to have to prove they belong in the NFL because they are by no means guaranteed to make the 53-man roster. Of the quartet mentioned above, the players with the best chance to make the roster are Quarless (based on talent) and Starks (based on lack of quality depth at running back).

A quick note on NFL rookie contracts before moving on to the Corey Hart deal. With the pending NFL lockout in 2011, many critics point to rookie salaries as one of the biggest problems facing the NFL. Those critics are partially correct. The problem is actually the top 15 picks, not all rookie contracts. The top 15 players selected in the NFL Draft each season are paid just as much as the rest of the players drafted. There were 255 players drafted in 2010, which means that the contracts of the guys selected 1-15 will equal the value of the contracts of the players selected 16-255.

Most experts agree that second and third round picks are the most valuable because you get very talented players for four years at a very cheap price. Even late first round picks can be very valuable. Take Bulaga for example, he is scheduled to make $3 million a year for the next 5 years. The guy playing in front of Bulaga, Chad Clifton, is set to earn an average of $6.5 million for the next three years even though he is on the downside of his career. There is chance that Bulaga will be a bust, but if he supplants Clifton at left tackle in 2010 or 2011 the Packers will end up paying way below market value for one of the most expensive and important positions in football.

Corey Hart Contract:
As mentioned above, Corey Hart went from the trade block to moving into a bigger house on Lake Shore Drive in Whitefish Bay in less than a week. Leading up to the trade deadline, Hart looked like the most likely candidate to move. Hart's 2010 salary is only $4.8 million, which is reasonable for a very productive corner outfielder. Furthermore, Hart was not scheduled to become a free agent till 2011 because he still had one more year of salary arbitration available.

As it has been widely reported by now, Hart wasn't even on the Brewers all-star ballot at the start of 2010. Instead of hanging his head, Hart put together a great first half of 2010. Hart parlayed his offensive explosion to start this season into a three-year, $26.5 million extension. Hart received a $1 million signing bonus along with salaries of $6.5 million in 2011, $9 million in 2012, and $10 million in 2013. The contract contains the usual bonuses for all-star appearances and other performance based bonuses. The contract also contains a limited no-trade clause, which means Hart can block trades to 15 clubs.

Unforutnaely, two former Brewer contracts came to mind when Hart signed the extension. The first contract that came to mind was my buddy Uncle Patty's favorite Brewers of all-time...Geoff Jenkins' three-year, $22.5 million deal that ran from 2005 to 2007. The other contract that came to mind was Bill Hall's 4-year, $24 million contract that runs from 2007 to 2011 (club option for 2011 that would not get exercised in a million years). It is not a good sign that Hart's contract immediately reminded me of the horrible deals given to Jenkins and Hall.

I have to question Melvin's thinking here, he clearly bought high since Hart is having the best season of his entire career. Why not let Hart go to arbitration next year? Hart actually earned a raise this year, let him get it. Plus, if Hart performs well to start 2011 then offer the extension. Reward producing at a high level for a number of seasons in a row not just the first half of one season. Plus if Hart got too expensive, trade him or let him sign with another team and take the draft pick compensation.

If you look at the Brewer salary obligations through from now through 2014, the Brewers don't have much money committed past 2011 but it is the 2nd and 3rd years of the Hart deal that are going to feel expensive. Hart makes $6.5 million in 2011 but jumps to $9 million in 2012 and $10 million in 2013...please don't be the Jeff Suppan of right fielders because the Brewers cannot afford those mistakes.

Hart's extension all but guarantees that Prince will not be in a Brewers uniform in 2012. That means Doug Melvin should think about moving Hart to first base after Prince leaves, especially if Cain, Gamel, or Lawrie look like viable corner outfielders for 2012. I hope I am wrong, but I have a bad feeling about the Hart extensions. Hart signed for way too much money and you never want to extend a guy while he is in the midst of a career year.

Final Thoughts:
To end on a positive note, how about Uecker's performance during the 7th inning stretch last night at Wrigley Field? Always a classy guy, glad that Uecker is recovering and back on the job after heart surgery.

Check out Uecker's version of "Take me out to the ball game" during the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley Field on August 3, 2010: "Alright everybody, here were go. Two, four, six...take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks, I don't care if I ever get back. So I'll root, root, root for the Brewers. You do the same for the Cubs. Then it's one, two, three strikes your out at the old, ball, game. Thank you very much, I love you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you." Uecker's golden pipes are the most soothing in the world...stay healthy Bob.

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