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Monday, April 20, 2009

The Eagles and Sheldon Brown

Eagles' Pro Bowl cornerback Sheldon Brown wants out of Philadelphia. Apparently he quietly asked for a trade a year ago, and now he is asking for one loudly. Brown has three years left on his contract, but he wants a new one because apparently the market has moved for star corners, and he doesn't believe he's well-compensated. Of course, as the Eagles (curiously) point out in their press release of this afternoon, that thought apparently didn't cross Brown's mind when the Birds offered him a long-term deal, a sizable bonus and the financial security that others in his draft class weren't offered at the time. Now, Brown didn't have to sign that contract, and, had he not, he could have earned a more lucrative payday when he was eligible for free agency. But he also could have suffered a career-ending injury and not cashed in. So, with agent in tow, he signed the long-term deal several years ago.

The Eagles response is curious because they have answered their star corner in a tough manned and continued the dispute in the public's eye. Naturally, they think they're right, and they do have a good argument. The question is whether their being right will benefit the team in the long run, or will they have a demotivated corner back for the second year in a row?

Sheldon Brown seems like a decent guy, but his plight raises a bunch of questions:

1. How flawed is the players' union's contract with the NFL? One, high draft picks who have proven nothing get ridiculously big deals at the expense of star veterans who might never "catch up" because they were low-round picks or free agents, didn't get a signing bonus, and then had to wait for free agency.

2. How selfish are NFL players? Brown had representation, he knew the risks, and he took a lesser deal than he would have gotten had he stayed healthy during the years up to free agency and performed at a high level. So why is he upset?

3. Are the Philadelphia Eagles unique in this predicament? It doesn't seem that they are, and, heck, they just traded for a left tackle who raised a stink in Buffalo, asked out, got his wish, and was traded -- ironically, to Philadelphia. The Bills enabled bad behavior and, tangentially, so did the Eagles.

4. How would you feel? I mean, suppose your a perennial top performer, you ink a deal early in your career, and then the market moves, so much so that your back-up, Joselio Hanson, gets a deal that is close to yours? Now, in the non-football real world, at some point management would realize a talent when it saw one and make sure that its star was paid at the top of the group that does the same job he does. In the football world, it's all about managing the free agency risk. I can see why Brown is ticked -- to him, lesser players are making the same if not more. But Brown seems to have gotten it wrong, hasn't he? After all, the game isn't to get paid more than the next guy, it's to get paid as much as possible before you get injured and get released. He might be measuring his success by the wrong yardstick.

At any rate, the Eagles have yet another unhappy defensive back. They lost Brian Dawkins to Denver and Sean Considine to Jacksonville, and they traded Lito Sheppard to the Jets. Sheldon Brown is no dummy, and he's forcing the Eagles' hand right before draft day because the Birds are somewhat thin in what has been a strong area for them under Andy Reid -- the secondary.

Sheldon Brown drew his line in the sand, and the Eagles have parried his attack and answered.

Stay tuned.


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