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Hines Ward & The Thing About Holdouts

Now, I like Hines Ward. Dude was on my fantasy team three years running. I always like the way he played – one of the most reliable receivers in the league. He’ll catch the long ball, he’ll catch the screen pass, he’ll get you first downs, he’ll get you touchdowns. He’ll block, he’ll run, he’ll do just about anything for the Pittsburgh Steelers in order for them to win.

And, remember – this man was one of Steeltown’s rocks at WR. 80 Receptions for over 1,000 yards each of the last four seasons. Four straight pro bowls. Three different QB’s. On a self-proclaimed “run-first” team. You look at the numbers compared to other elite wideouts in the league, and it doesn’t take a genius to know that Ward is one of the most valuable players in Pittsburgh, and the NFL. He’s up there with Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison, Randy Moss, Torry Holt, Chad Johnson, in just about every single statistical category.

With the exception of one – Salary.

Now, Ward is expected to see $1.66 million in the final year of his current contract. $1.66 million! Now, you compare that to a WR like Amani Toomer, who is expected to see around $6 million, and you gotta ask yourself a question – how can somebody with one-fifth the talent get paid five times more? I’m sorry … does that make any sense?

Now, in the case of Hines, you can bet your ass I’m on his side. All-around, arguably, one of the best in the game. That’s “players”, by the way – not just “wide receivers”. Yeah, I said it. And he’s gettin’ paid five times less than some less talented players. It just isn’t fair.

Now, let me get to my point. Hines Ward is currently in the middle of a holdout. OOH … the dreaded word. Holdout. Lately, it’s been looked at as a bush-league tactic set up by greedy players and agents to get $5 or $10 million more than the millions they already make. Now, let me be the first to say … well, not the first, but, anyway … I beg to differ. This deals with a much more troubling issue in this league.

This has to do with guaranteed money, and equalizing power between front office and player. That’s all this really boils down to. Now, people can say that players demanding more money is greedy and selfish. “You make millions of dollars – stop whining about more money!”, or “You signed a contract – see it through!” I can hear them say, in various ways.

What some people don’t understand is, the contracts that players sign aren’t guaranteed. NBA, MLB – the money they sign for is the money they get. The money that NFL players sign for – even those like T.O., who just signed a 7-year, $49 million contract – can be restructured, cut down, or even yanked from under them sooner than you can say “Torn ACL”. The minute any player becomes expendable is the minute they lose their contract money.

Now, explain to me how it’s fair that front offices, GMs, Owners can restructure, or even outright cut, expendable or expensive contracts whenever they feel like it, and players are looked at as the bad guy when they feel like they deserve more money. All of the power, in this case, is clearly with the owners. So, does anybody think that’s fair?

Players should have the right to negotiate for more guaranteed money. The problem here is that they don’t have that right. NFL players deserve the same right to future security as much as any blue-collar worker. In the world of professional sport, talented players should get the money they deserve – end of story. And that money should be guaranteed: otherwise, they’re completely screwed if they get cut, for whatever reason.

I’m not saying that players should have the power to renegotiate their contracts whenever they feel like it, for extreme amounts of money. If that happened, people could see players renegotiating contracts after every play week down the road, for ridiculous sums of money. All I’m saying is that players deserve more guaranteed money, based on their play on the field. Guys like Ward put butts in seats, and give their heart and soul for the team. The least his team can do is give him the money he deserves.

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