Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Asante and Strategy

Dave, the author of The Coffin Corner, and subject of a mild bit of jealous on my part for living on the edge of one of my favorite cities, recently made some great observations about the Asante Samuel situation in the Razor. As usual, Dave has taken his position on Samuel's contract demands and backed them up with solid arguments.

In the second to last paragraph he wrote on the subject, something he put on his blog caught my eye and made me think. Dave observed:

The deadline for a multi-year extension is next Monday at 4 pm. After that, Samuel can only play for the one-year deal and we'll likely see the same thing happen next year. My guess is that the Bly and Vasher contracts will give the Pats a clear example to present to Samuel's reps and that a deal will get done. It really doesn't benefit Samuel to do it any other way. If he holds out until week 10 he'll only make a little over one million this year. And if he shows up to camp to play out the one-year franchise tender, then why did he hold out?
This paragraph got me thinking about the hold-out as a negotiating tool, and I realized that it is only a truly effective ploy if the player is someone that a team can not do without...say, Peyton Manning for the Colts. Not Asante Samuel.

Last year Deion Branch was on the verge of a regular season hold-out with the Patriots when he was traded to Seattle. As much as the local and national sports media blasted the Patriots brain-trust for that move, in the end, it really didn't hurt them. They can say what they like about Reche Caldwell, but statistically, he adequately replaced Branch's numbers - which were never reflective of the money he was demanding. That Seattle gave that money to him is a whole separate issue.

But let's attack the hold-out strategy for Samuel.
  1. Samuel replaced an aging Ty Law who was set free due to a high cap-number. The team was blasted by the press for letting Law go while not having a replacement ready. The replacement turned out to be Samuel himself. Armed with this little nugget, and the knowledge that Ellis Hobbs is probably in a comparable place in his development after a similar amount of time in the pros, Samuel's camp should know that it's unlikely that the Patriots are going to blink in this little game of chicken.
  2. The common argument, used by Samuel himself, is, "I could go out there and hurt myself on the first play" of the season, and never see the [guaranteed bonus] money from a new contract. When analyzed, this argument is one of the most boneheaded you can come across. To wit - as the franchise designee, the so designated player will receive a one year salary equal to the average of the top five players at his position. In Samuel's case, this comes to somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.3 million. That is guaranteed. If Samuel sits out until the tenth game, he will receive only a prorated amount of that. After the fines he incurs, it's likely to be less than $1.5 million. So he sits out in order to make maybe 25 percent of what he could make, and takes that exact same risk in week ten he whined about having to take in week one - never mind the fact that no franchised player has ever suffered the career ending injury they all cite as why they don't want to sign that tender.
  3. The strategy backs the player into a corner they can't get out of. If Samuel shows up, even at the beginning of the regular season in order to get the whole check, then he loses face. If he doesn't show up until week 10, who really thinks that he will see time as anything other than a nickel corner during those last four weeks - and I say four, because who really believes that he will get any playing time while he gets into, as Bill Belichick would put it, "game shape." He doesn't show up until week 10 and he might as well have lost a whole season in his prime.
The bottom line is that holding out is not just a desperate move, but a stupid move.

The only way it could possibly work for Samuel is if something went horribly wrong in the secondary - so much so that the Patriots would need to start Troy Brown at corner. Otherwise someone in his camp needs to tell him that he is nowhere near a position of power in his bargaining.


sugarshane024 said...

Wow! Good post. I've never really understood the hold-out, but now I actually see how stupid it really is.

The injury-on-the-first-play argument doesn't make sense for yet another reason. If you think about it, you are more likely to get hurt in Week 10 (if it's your first play of the season) than in Week 1. Why? Well, everyone but yourself is in midseason form in Week 10.

By the way, Troy Brown could be used in the secondary once again. He just signed a one-year deal.

Kevin Smith said...

Gotta admit, until I read that paragraph over at thecoffincorner, all I really had was this inkling in the back of my head that this was stupid, but for whatever reason, hadn't really pu t my finger on why.

Dave said...

You're too kind. Which city, Portland or Boston?

I never even thought about the Ty Law comparison. You'd think that example would smack Samuel in the face.

The lesson, as always is that you don't play chicken with the Pats' front office.

Kevin Smith said...


I love Boston, but I used to spend long weekends in Portland. Hell, I'm in my mid 30's and my wife and I talk about Maine as where we would like to retire to.

And, yeah, I've been amazed that he and his agent haven't made the Law connection.