Here are some thoughts as NFL teams complete their springtime minicamps and OTAs:
1. What goes on in the spring, stays in the spring
The modern NFL coaches have all learned to take the spring with a grain of salt when it comes to the things some veteran players say and do.
I asked Bill Cowher the other day what is the one thing he would take with him back to pro football if he ever goes back. "I have watched what goes on in April, May and June, and I realize what goes on in the spring stays in the spring," he said.
By that he means that the smart coaches pay little public attention to players crying about contracts and threatening to not show up for offseason workouts or even mandatory practices. Cowher, like most coaches, has learned the importance of ignoring players who try to make a splash in the media with their personal gripes.
A good example is Bill Parcells in Miami. Players such as Terrell Owens comment on what Parcells has said about Jason Taylor. Then the media speculates about what Parcells is thinking in regards to Taylor. Then Dolphins fans cry out for the organization to mend their issues with their disgruntled defensive end.
The truth is, it was impossible to find comments from Parcells on Taylor until Parcells finally spoke on the subject on Thursday.
2. Build the back end of your roster
With minicamps and OTAs going on, June is a good month to assess the talent and fill in the back end of the roster.
The Redskins are doing a nice job. They picked up safety Stuart Schweigert and made a no-harm, no-foul trade for defensive end Erasmus James. I talked with Redskins VP Vinny Cerrato and he is working hard to find a few bargain veterans to create camp competition and build an insurance policy against injuries to starters.
San Diego grabbed Jeremy Newberry as insurance at center. The Chargers would be wise to not wear him out in camp practices and make sure he is fresh and ready for the regular season.
The Giants protected themselves from losing Michael Strahan to retirement by signing defensive end Renaldo Wynn. If Strahan comes back, then they have another camp body to guard against injury.
The Patriots got lineman Oliver Ross under contract, and with the news about Nick Kaczur it looks like a brilliant move.
There's not a lot of fanfare with the June signings, but the smart teams are sure to grab two to three veterans before they break for summer vacation. There are a few unemployed veterans looking for better money than they're being offered, and they have to decide if waiting until a team loses players in the summer is worth the risk of getting under contract now. Takeo Spikes is a solid veteran taking that risk right now and he may win, but he may lose and one year out of the league at his age could end his career.
3. Extend solid vets in last year of their contracts
I had a chance to talk with Terrell Owens hours after he signed his new deal, and as you could imagine he was in a very happy mood. In years past, teams held off negotiating with certain veterans until after they got their draft picks signed, but there is enough cap room around right now that a number of teams are considering doing veteran extensions now. The problems arise when a veteran is demanding more money and he has multiple years left on his deal. Most teams I have spoken with are not interested in opening that can of worms in June.
I also spoke with Jeff Garcia this week and he feels he's one of those guys who deserves a new contract now, despite having one year left on his current deal. He is scheduled to make $2 million as a starting quarterback, and he knows backups are making more than that. He's 38 years old, and if he plays well this season the team can always franchise him in 2009.
The quarterback franchise tag is about $10 million for one season, but the team doesn't have to take that risk if Garcia gets hurt in 2008, announces his retirement or simply plays poorly. Based on garcia's age, this is not easy to construct at this time for the Buccaneers.
Does the team want to put a contract together that extends past his 40th birthday? Do they want to look at the 2008 money and the franchise tag in 2009 as a $12 million package and split it up into two years at $6 million each? Would Garcia take a $1 million bump this year to a $3 million salary and put a second year on his deal at say $5 million in guaranteed money?
It's not easy, but something could be done. The one thing no one is buying at this time is that Garcia would retire if nothing is done. The guy loves football too much to call it quits, and that may be working against him right now.