Owens got what he paid for when he signed

April 28, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

It seems everybody has an opinion on Terrell Owens these days.

Owens, the Philadelphia Eagles' flamboyant and highly talented receiver, has many sports columnists riled up over his demand that the Eagles give him a new, richer contract that more accurately matches his production. Owens, as of right now, is not one of the highest-paid receivers in the NFL, despite having been one of the top four or five receivers in the league over the past several years.

In my view, in this specific instance, Owens got what he signed for. When he was traded from San Francisco to Philadelphia, he agreed to sign a deal knowing it was less than market value. This was his choice, he made it, and he should live up to it.

But there are parts of Owens' argument that make sense, even though in his particular case I don't feel they apply.


What most fans don't understand is that in the NFL, long-term contracts are illusions: They don't exist. Only the first two years of any contract are guaranteed.

For example, say a player signed a seven-year, $49 million deal ($7 million a year, to keep the math simple), with a $10 million signing bonus. In truth, the player is really signing a two-year, $24 million deal (the first two years, plus the signing bonus). That is money the player is guaranteed: The other $35 million is essentially meaningless, because if the team chooses to release the player during or at the end of the first two years, the team owes not another cent. Often, a team will come to a player and ask him to restructure his deal, or risk being released.

One of Owens' arguments is that, if a team has a right to cut its losses if a highly paid player underperforms or if salary-cap issues come up, why doesn't a player have the right to demand a better contract if he overachieves? After all, the business of professional sports should be a two-way street.

I agree with this argument ... just not in Owens' case.

Dan Kauffman is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7520, or by e-mail at

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