There’s a great scene in Season 8 of Seinfeld where J. Peterman tries to buy Kramer’s stories for his autobiography. Here’s how it went down:
PETERMAN: Name your price, man!
KRAMER: 1500 dollars.
PETERMAN: I’ll give you half that.
Negotiating has come a long way in the 19 years since that episode first aired. Kramer’s meeting with Peterman lasted all of 10 seconds. The Panthers have been in contract discussions with Josh Norman since October and still aren’t any closer to getting a deal done.
It’s easy to see why the two sides are so far apart. Norman, who was basically an unknown before his breakout year in 2015, is aiming to become the league’s highest-paid cornerback. Odell Beckham’s nemesis is reportedly seeking a $16 million annual salary. Even the game’s most shrewd negotiator, Darrelle Revis, would have to admire a deal of that magnitude.
Of course, the Panthers have no intention of paying that lofty figure and are hoping the next few months will go a long way toward Norman softening his contract demands. The Panthers bought some time by placing the franchise tag on Norman, which will pay him $13.952 million this year if he ends up signing it. Norman recently hinted at skipping OTAs, which would send a powerful message to an organization that isn’t known for giving out big contracts. The two sides have until July 15 to reach a long-term deal. Otherwise, Norman will hit the open market next offseason.
Norman isn’t the only one who sees a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. According to Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole, free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is also asking for a deal worth $16 million annually. It’s a big number but not unreasonable considering how much other quarterbacks have signed for this offseason. Sam Bradford, an injury-prone underachiever who has never thrown more than 21 touchdowns in a season (Fitzpatrick threw for 31 this past season), agreed to a two-year, $36 million deal prior to the start of free agency. Brock Osweiler, he of seven career starts, topped that with his four-year, $72 million pact with Houston.
While Fitzpatrick’s asking price is somewhat tame compared to Osweiler’s, that doesn’t mean the Jets are going to write him a blank check. The Jets seem to have taken a page out of J. Peterman’s book, offering roughly half of Fitzpatrick’s desired salary. The Jets are willing to bump their offer up from $7 million to $9 million annually, which probably doesn’t come as much consolation to Fitzpatrick. Only the Steelers, Broncos and Saints (who are actually over the salary cap right now), have less salary cap space than the Jets.
Releasing long-time left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson could provide some measure of cap relief. That process might already be in the works. The Jets have given Ferguson the cold shoulder this offseason and seem to be dangling him as trade bait. The three-time Pro Bowler has only missed one snap in 10 NFL seasons but his $14.1 million cap hit is a huge strain on the Jets’ financial flexibility. Left tackles don’t exactly grow on trees though, and finding a new one could prove to be a bigger headache than just keeping Ferguson at his current salary. GM Mike Maccagnan has plenty of sleepless nights ahead of him. The Jets’ offseason puzzle won’t get much easier.
Apparently Super Bowl MVP and current Dancing With the Stars participant Von Miller also sees dollar signs. He’s reportedly pursuing a deal worth $22 million annually. That doesn’t seem as ambitious now that Olivier Vernon, a player who has never been to a Pro Bowl, is making $17 million a year. It’s all about market value. Is Kirk Cousins worth $20 million a year? Probably not, but the market dictates that he is.
Inflated salaries are hardly unique to football. In MLB, the Cubs signed Jason Heyward to an eight-year, $184 million contract during the offseason and that wasn’t even his biggest offer. Heyward has averaged less than 13 home runs over his last three seasons and carries a .268 lifetime average. That’s worth $23 million a year in today’s world of ever-increasing player salaries.
All of this is great news for Miller, especially if he hits the open market next offseason. Jason Cole recently spoke to two GMs who believe he’ll have no trouble netting an annual salary of $24-25 million if he reaches free agency. If that’s the case, Miller would actually be giving Denver a hometown discount if he signs for $22 million a year. Either way, he’s primed to become the highest-paid defensive player of all-time. Of course, with the NFL’s salary cap on the rise (it’s set at $155.27 million for 2016, $12 million higher than last season), that record won’t last for long.
Griffin III Headed to Cleveland
How much does an insurance policy cost? In Cleveland, the going rate is $15 million. That’s the amount Robert Griffin III will earn over the course of his new two-year contract.
Griffin III could very well be the Browns’ Week 1 starter, but he’ll have to work for it. The Browns have made clear to Griffin III that the starting quarterback job is up for grabs. Griffin III has not been guaranteed anything (except $6.75 million) and the Browns are still fully expected to draft a quarterback, probably either Carson Wentz or Jared Goff, with the No. 2 pick in next month’s draft. Considering all the hype Wentz has been getting (he just aced the Wonderlic if you hadn’t heard), there’s a very real chance Griffin III will be holding a clipboard next season.
If the RG3 experiment fails, the Browns have an easy way out. Griffin’s contract calls for a $750,000 roster bonus on the third day of the next league year. That means Cleveland will have to make a decision on Griffin III relatively early next offseason.
But that’s the worst-case scenario. Griffin III wowed head coach Hue Jackson at his tryout last week and plans to further sharpen his mechanics this offseason by working with quarterback guru Tom House. You probably know House from his other reclamation projects including Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton. He’s also worked with Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Blake Bortles, Terrelle Pryor, A.J. McCarron, Tim Tebow, Matt Cassel and Alex Smith. That list speaks for itself, though Dalton represents House’s biggest success story. After regressing in 2014, Dalton went to House for help during the offseason. Dalton responded by setting new career-highs in passer rating (106.3) and completion percentage (66.1). Perhaps Griffin III will follow a similar path. His pocket presence will be more important than ever playing behind an offensive line that lost two of its starters during free agency (Mitchell Schwartz and Alex Mack).
The Griffin III story doesn’t end there. Apparently the Broncos briefly explored the possibility of signing RG3 but decided against it because of character concerns. Denver GM John Elway must not have liked what he heard from his former coach Mike Shanahan, who served as Griffin III’s head coach during his first two years in Washington. Griffin grew up a Broncos fan and would have signed in a heartbeat if they had shown interest.
Signing Griffin III likely takes the Browns out of the running for Colin Kaepernick. Cleveland was the favorite to land Kaepernick earlier this month, but the trade rumors have died down since then and now it looks like he’ll stay in San Francisco.
April 1 has long been considered the deadline for trading Kaepernick because that’s when his $11.9 million salary for next season becomes fully guaranteed. But here’s the catch—his salary is already fully guaranteed for injury. Kaepernick probably wouldn’t be able to pass a physical right now after undergoing three offseason surgeries. If he’s cut before April 1, the NFL Players Association could file an injury grievance that would force the Niners to pay him his full salary. If Kaepernick signed with someone else after that, the 49ers would pay the difference between his $11.9 million salary and whatever he earns from his new team in 2016. Teams waiting for San Francisco to part ways with Kaepernick may have to think of a new plan.
Quick Hits: The NFL will place the ball on the 25-yard line after a touchback starting next season. The rule was adopted to prevent concussions but may do the opposite as teams will probably look to keep the ball in play to prevent touchbacks … Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah is hanging it up. The seven-year veteran has decided to call it a career after suffering his fifth concussion last season … The Falcons signed Courtney Upshaw to a one-year deal on Friday. He’ll replace free agent O’Brien Schofield at strong side linebacker … Former No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel could be on the trading block. According to The Florida Times Union, the Jaguars are expected to decline Joeckel’s fifth-year option so he’ll be easier to trade. Joeckel became expendable when the Jaguars signed left tackle Kelvin Beachum earlier this offseason … Johnathan Cyprien isn’t a lock to keep his starting job at strong safety. One idea the Jaguars have kicked around is starting James Sample and moving Cyprien to linebacker … Jaguars coach Gus Bradley wants to keep things simple for quarterback Blake Bortles. "I think the common thing for an offensive coordinator is to say, 'Okay, he understands it. Let’s add more,'" said Bradley. "That’s not what we’re going to do. I think that’s a big mistake to add more to his plate.” Don’t expect the Jags to add too many wrinkles to their offense in 2016 … USA Today’s Tom Pelissero says the Packers have been “poking around” running back Ronnie Hillman. He’s coming off his best season (career-highs in yards and touchdowns) but wouldn’t have much of a role in Green Bay behind Eddie Lacy and James Starks … Jared Cook joined the Packers Monday on a one-year, $2.75 million deal. The ex-Ram is in the midst of a 19-game touchdown drought … New England brought Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton in for a visit on Monday. Knighton, a Connecticut native, grew up rooting for the Patriots … Former Rams DT Nick Fairley is headed to New Orleans on a one-year deal. He paid New England a visit before choosing the Saints … New Orleans kept Josh Hill by matching the Bears’ three-year offer sheet. He’ll back up Coby Fleener at tight end … Jameis Winston told Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter he wants to change his body this offseason. Winston came to this decision after playing with physical specimens Julio Jones and Russell Wilson at this year’s Pro Bowl … Darrelle Revis can begin rehabbing after doctors remove the pin from his surgically repaired wrist. That should happen in about a month … Arian Foster will visit the Dolphins on Tuesday. Miami pursued running backs Chris Johnson, C.J. Anderson and Alfred Morris earlier in free agency but came up empty each time … The Lions are hosting Stevan Ridley for a visit. Injuries have limited Ridley to 14 games over his last two seasons … The Colts want Andrew Luck to get better at sliding. Luck seems to share this point of view. “Part of me thinks I brought it upon myself by not sliding on certain situations and realize there’s a time and place for taking a hit,’’ he said. “Sliding is certainly a part of the game that I still need to improve on and we’ve talked about this before.”