I always laugh when I hear fans heap tons of praise on NFL players who agree to restructure their contracts in-order to give their team ( and employer) the all-important cap relief most franchises seem to seek each and every offseason.
Heck, even the players themselves, when asked about a particular restructuring, often act like they made a huge sacrifice for the sake of the team, earning even more praise and kudos from fans, along the way.
OK, let’s get one thing straight. In most cases, when a player is asked to restructure his contract, he’s one who is deemed very valuable to his team. Otherwise, said team would have no qualms telling that player to take a hike (or a pay cut). Therefore, when a player is asked to restructure, he’s not losing anything. (Believe me, if a player knows he’s of great value, there is no way he’s going to give up a single dime on a contract he signed.)
No, when a player is asked to restructure his deal, it’s either an extension or his base salary is turned into a bonus so it can be prorated over the life of his contract, as was the case last week when the Steelers and Antonio Brown agreed to restructure the deal he signed just two offseasons ago. Instead of earning approximately $6 million in base salary in 2014, Brown will receive the majority of that money up front in the form of a bonus.
When I think of the usual contract restructuring, it sort of reminds me of when you check in at a hotel, and the manager upgrades you to a room with a hot tub because the one you originally were booked in wasn’t quite ready.
You didn’t even know you were inconvenienced, but you act all put out, anyway:
“Yes, that’s the least you can do for me. What kind of joint are you running here, anyway! Now, show me to my hot tub!”
Anyway, there’s a stark difference between your usual contract restructuring and a pay cut. When a team asks a player to take a pay cut, that team is basically telling its employee, “We want you to stay, but we don’t think you’re worth the contract we signed you to.”
NFL players are a lot of things, and prideful is certainly one of them. No player (nobody in any walk of life, really) wants to be told his performance doesn’t reflect his salary.
Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, whose next season will be his 12th, agreed to a pay cut on Monday that will reduce his 2014 salary from $7 million to $2.75 million.
Taylor, 33, certainly didn’t have to accept a cut in pay and could have demanded his release. A season ago, outside linebacker James Harrison refused to take a pay cut and was released by Pittsburgh in yet another move to improve the team’s on-going problems with salary cap compliance.
The fact that Taylor, whose career passes defensed per season (12.5) compares quite favorably to noted shutdown corner Darrelle Revis (15.5 per year) agreed to a cut says a lot about his character and his devotion to the Steelers. In a tweet all but announcing the deal, Taylor displayed his love for the only team he’s ever played for.
Here’s the tweet:
The INK is about to dry on this paper…im a LIFER…#6BURGHfoalldemhatas…will retire as a ROONEY and a LEBEAU…✌️
— Ike Taylor (@Ike_SwagginU) March 10, 2014
With only one year left on the contract he signed in 2011, Taylor’s quote appears to indicate 2014 could be his last in the NFL. Whether or not that’s the case remains to be seen, but a pay cut doesn’t mean Taylor’s play will automatically drop off, significantly.
Was Taylor the same player in 2013 that he was in his prime? No, but he was still good enough to be the number one corner on the roster, and that tells me No. 24 will be quite the bargain, next year.
And I wouldn’t put it past Taylor, who’s been proving people wrong his entire career, to workout harder this offseason than he ever has in order to show he still has the ability to play in the NFL. (For someone like Taylor, a notorious workout fiend, to train even harder would be saying an awful lot.)
Fans should be thankful Taylor agreed to his pay cut, because now, with the signing of free safety Mike Mitchell on Tuesday, the Steelers secondary could be significantly better next year.
And if Ike Taylor, who just made a sacrifice few prideful professional athletes would agree to, proves to be the class of the secondary in 2014, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised.