FanDuel - WFBC

February 29, 2012

Steelers Release Hines Ward: In 14 seasons, all with the Steelers, Ward had 1,000 receptions for 12,083 yards and 85 touchdowns, all Steelers records. He was MVP of Super Bowl XL and made the Pro Bowl four times, more than any receiver in team history. According to a source close to Ward, the Steelers released him without even asking him to take a pay cut. On his Facebook page, Hines stated that he plans to play in the NFL this season.

posted by scully to football at 08:36 PM - 37 comments

Great football player, but he was born to dance!

posted by dyams at 09:06 PM on February 29

Didn't Ward say that he would take a pay cut during the season? Weird that they didn't even discuss it with him.

posted by brainofdtrain at 09:07 PM on February 29

And this is why nobody should be angry when players hold out (for more money or a better up-front contract).

posted by grum@work at 09:09 PM on February 29

And this is why nobody should be angry when players hold out (for more money or a better up-front contract).

Hate Ward's game, but he certainly did everything he could for the Steelers. What we aren't hearing is if the Steelers had discussions with Ward prior to releasing him. It was clearly evident last year he could no longer contribute and I'd have to think they would have given him an opportunity to retire a Steeler and assume some role within the organization.

posted by cixelsyd at 11:31 PM on February 29

But, but according to Mike Brown NFL contracts are supposed to be obligated.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 08:58 AM on March 01

The linked article was a quickie from last night when the story broke. Ed Bouchette expanded on the article on PPG. Also, here are some published responses from Ward's teammates via Twitter and the general public.

posted by scully at 09:29 AM on March 01

Hines Ward had has a great career with Pittsburgh. And I am sad the Steelers didn't want to negotiate so he could stay. But as they say, all good things must come to an end.

He will always be a Pittsburgh Steeler no matter where he ends up in the NFL.

In the same vein, I don't see Polomalu wearing the Black and Gold much longer either. The Steelers are like any other team, when you are no longer a significant contributor, you are out.

posted by steelergirl at 10:01 AM on March 01

All of the those Twitter comments and article comments from the send PPG article linked by Scully seem to think Ward is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. Has anyone seen the backlog of deserving wide receivers? And the receivers who will be coming up before Ward is eligible or at the same time?

posted by holden at 10:16 AM on March 01

Based off Pro Football Focus Advanced NFL Stats, Polomalu was the best safety in the league last year.

posted by apoch at 10:36 AM on March 01

And this is why nobody should be angry when players hold out (for more money or a better up-front contract).

Who's angry? I think the resentment comes when players agree to a contract and then decide not to abide by it. Although in most cases if a player is performing well above expectations most team realize that a renegotiated contract or an extension is in their best interest. On the other hand it is a two way street, players can leave teams for greener pastures and teams have the same right to cut loose players when they can no longer perform up to expectations, or a better player is available. It's business.

There have been many players that hold out or refuse to honor their signed contracts but I have never heard of a team that doesn't abide by the contracts they sign. Even when they are a bust and extremely costly to the team.

Ward was a great contributor to his team, but time has caught up with him as it does everybody. Just what separates Ward from players like Joe Montana, or Brett Favre? He has made a fortune with the Steelers and now it is time to go. I don't see where he is any victim of a cruel business.

posted by Atheist at 11:14 AM on March 01

There have been many players that hold out or refuse to honor their signed contracts but I have never heard of a team that doesn't abide by the contracts they sign. Even when they are a bust and extremely costly to the team.

Are you serious? Ward had two years left on his contract and they let him go. That's not abiding by the terms.

posted by apoch at 11:19 AM on March 01

I think the resentment comes when players agree to a contract and then decide not to abide by it

How is this different?

posted by yerfatma at 11:48 AM on March 01

On the other hand it is a two way street, players can leave teams for greener pastures and teams have the same right to cut loose players when they can no longer perform up to expectations, or a better player is available.

Players just can't leave a team for another team in the middle of a contract. There are no "greener pastures" when they are under contract. That's why they hold out. It's their only method while under contract to improve their situation, while the teams have the ability to end a contract at any time.

I have never heard of a team that doesn't abide by the contracts they sign. Even when they are a bust and extremely costly to the team.

Then you aren't paying attention. Players get cut by teams all the time before their contracts are finished. That is the nature of the NFL with non-guaranteed contracts.

posted by grum@work at 11:49 AM on March 01

Atheist,..Nfl player's contract's are not garenteed, meaning players do not get to leave without a trade or buyout. They would have to sit out at least a season, but owners can dump players at anytime for any reason! Not quite fair as you think.

posted by bo_fan at 11:56 AM on March 01

The Steelers have some serious cap issues, or did, and this may be the first in a long line of Steeler veterans shown the door. Also on that list will be Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Larry Foote, James Farrior, James Harrison. Ward had a great career here and will be missed, hopefully he doesnt play another year somewhere else, but he was going to be at least #4 on the depth chart, and cant play special teams. He will be in the broadcast booth somewhere soon.,

posted by Debo270 at 12:25 PM on March 01

How is this different?

Well, one is a punk-ass player breaking a sacred contract and the other is a benevolent owner just trying to help his team. Duh.

posted by tron7 at 02:12 PM on March 01

I am not commenting on the fairness of NFL contracts, but they are legally binding contracts that the players negotiate with the help of lawyers and agents, and willingly sign. Sure the teams can cut or release a player but that is part of the contract and why so many contracts involve guaranteed money, signing bonuses, performance incentives and lump sum payments or bonuses during the course of the contract. Which is why for example the Colts owe $28 mil to Peyton Manning by March 8th in order to keep the contract in effect or he can walk as a free agent. Players are grown men and are not forced to sign these contracts.

On the other hand I have not heard about one situation where an NFL team has not been required to honor a written contract to the letter of the law.

When a player who has negotiated a contract, refuses to play under the contract he signs, it is an attempt by way of withholding services paid for, a renegotiation of that contract or to force a trade. The only reason players can get away with it is that, legally you could force a player to show up but there is no way to force him to play, or play to his ability and teams are kind of stuck. Only players who are really unhappy, or are performing far above the expected level (say a Victor Cruz for example) get away with it because the teams realize it may be in their best interest to renegotiate the contract to keep a high level performer. It is also why so many teams initiate a renegotiation to extend the contracts of unexpectedly good performing athletes.

NFL players have it pretty good as far as company employees go. In most states you can be let go for any reason, any time as long as it isn't a discriminatory reason and violation of the law.

When you have a job that pays more in one year than the average person makes in a life time, there is a reason. Nobody is twisting the arms of players to sign no guarantee contracts, they are negotiated with full knowledge and some would say there is a moral obligation to honor your end of a contract you signed. It is pretty difficult to have fully guaranteed contracts in the business of football because at anytime a player could purposely under perform, or falsely claim he cannot perform in order to take the money and run. As in most jobs your job security is clearly tied to job performance. Under perform, be a problem at the work place, a better person comes along, or be a disruption for your fellow employees, and your gone. Players can control how much effort they put into honoring their contracts and therefore fully guaranteed contracts would make little business sense for football teams. Parts of the contracts are guaranteed and parts are not. It is more an issue with honoring what you agree to, or working with the employer to renegotiate a more favorable deal for both parties. In the case of Hines Ward, the Steelers are moving on and renegotiation has no upside for them.

posted by Atheist at 02:39 PM on March 01

Sure the teams can cut or release a player but that is part of the contract

Honestly, I think pretty much everyone is going to stop reading right there. I have no idea what you put in the next two paragraphs, but you're being obtuse.

posted by yerfatma at 03:12 PM on March 01

You are setting up a double standard, Atheist. When teams get out of a contract, the contract is set up knowing that. When a player tries to get out of their contract, they are doing something out-of-bounds. NFL contracts are also negotiated knowing full well that a player that outperforms that contract may hold out. By holding out of mandatory camps, they subject themselves to costly fines every day of their hold out. That is obviously not an unforeseen circumstance, so there is zero reason to consider that in any other vain than teams cutting a player.

Furthermore, the comparison to regular people is just wrong-headed. Regular people do not work in an industry subject to antitrust exemption permitting these anti-competitive contracts. NFL players are given the choice of staying with their employer or leaving the industry altogether.

I'll leave the explanation of why players are being compensated so well to someone else.

posted by bperk at 03:43 PM on March 01

Maybe Atheist is secretly Jim Irsay.

posted by apoch at 05:56 PM on March 01

NFL players are given the choice of staying with their employer or leaving the industry altogether.

or going to another league like the CFL or the Arena League. It seems ironic to me that the league that is supposedly holding back their salaries is by far the best paying league in the industry. While there are both sides to consider, I always find it difficult to paint the modern day professional multi millionaire professional athlete, or the multi billionaire team owner as victims in any sense. The players are represented by a strong union, and the owners and players have a labor contract that both have agreed to.

If playing pro football is so terrible, why are so many trying to get there?

Hines Ward had a great run, I don't think he will look back at his tenure with the Steelers as a bad thing. His pension and other benefits must be fantastic, and the doors that his career have opened up for him are many. Hard for me to feel sorry for his situation.

posted by Atheist at 07:00 PM on March 01

Sure the teams can cut or release a player but that is part of the contract

This is some sort of joke, right? Terminating a contract before the terms are complete is not "part of the contract". It's part of the industry, and that's the reason that players ask for signing bonuses.

When you have a job that pays more in one year than the average person makes in a life time, there is a reason.

I make more in less than 4 years than league minimum in the NFL ($375,000). I don't have a particularly high paying job, but then again I don't run the risk of suffering job/life threatening injuries multiple times a day during my time at the office.

It seems ironic to me that the league that is supposedly holding back their salaries is by far the best paying league in the industry.

How is that "ironic"? Both statements can be absolutely true without any "irony" involved.

The players are represented by a strong union

Again, I don't think you have a grasp on the situation. The NFLPA is probably the most crippled (pun-intended) union of the "big 4" (football, hockey, baseball, basketball). All three of the other unions have guaranteed contracts, and the buyout plans for the remaining years on those contracts still provide the players with a significant portion of their future salaries (in a lump sum).

Even the NHLPA, after getting crushed by the owners during the last lockout and agreeing to a salary cap, still didn't give up their rights to guaranteed contracts.

I don't understand how you can think that a O-lineman can sign a contract for $800,000/yr for 6 years, suffer a career-threatening injury in game 3 of the season, and have the team cut him after season one, is perfectly fair.

posted by grum@work at 09:46 PM on March 01

I always find it difficult to paint the modern day professional multi millionaire professional athlete, or the multi billionaire team owner as victims in any sense.

I don't think anyone paints the multi-billionaire team owner as a "victim" at any time.

You also keep talking about the "multi-millionaire professional athlete" like they are commonplace. They aren't. The large majority of professional athletes won't make a million dollars in their life times.

posted by grum@work at 09:49 PM on March 01

I don't understand how you can think that a O-lineman can sign a contract for $800,000/yr for 6 years, suffer a career-threatening injury in game 3 of the season, and have the team cut him after season one, is perfectly fair.

But you think it would be perfectly fair that the team would be obligated to pay this hypothetical lineman, $4,800,000.00 for playing in three games?

You are setting up a double standard, Atheist. When teams get out of a contract, the contract is set up knowing that. When a player tries to get out of their contract, they are doing something out-of-bounds.

Atheist didn't set that double standard. The contracts are what they are, voidable at any time by one of the parties and agreed upon by both. The player signs a contract which he understands can be voided at any time. I'd like to keep it that way, do you really want Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith or Jamarcus Russell to get paid a guaranteed contract, with a zero return on the teams investment? They got enough in signing bonuses to go suck, don't feel bad for them when they don't collect on the rest of their contract.

Sure the teams can cut or release a player but that is part of the contract

Honestly, I think pretty much everyone is going to stop reading right there. I have no idea what you put in the next two paragraphs, but you're being obtuse

How is that obtuse and why would you think that pretty much everyone would stop reading right there? If you don't think the contracts are fair fine but they are what they are.

What did the Colts pay Manning last year for nothing? $23,000,000.00? And now they should just pay him $28,000,000.00 this year? Guarantee that contract and there goes $90,000,000.00 (he just signed a 5 year 90million contract in 2011) out the door. That way Colts fans could sit back on future Sunday afternoons for years to come and watch their team suck. They can be happy that Manning wasn't screwed out of his contract though. Too bad they wouldn't be able to sign free agents because they would be broke. Poor fans, poor franchise, poor future free agents, happy Peyton. Not a good idea in my opinion.

posted by tselson at 11:54 PM on March 01

I'd like to keep it that way, do you really want Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith or Jamarcus Russell to get paid a guaranteed contract, with a zero return on the teams investment?

Why should you (or I) care that a player sucked (or was injured) but his team has to pay him?

And if you bring up that stupid canard about "having to raise ticket prices"...

That way Colts fans could sit back on future Sunday afternoons for years to come and watch their team suck.

Then don't offer the contract.

I don't remember the Colts GM having a gun held to their head when they signed a 35 year-old quarterback to a 5 year deal, and gave him all that money and put all those clauses in it.

My original point at the beginning of this discussion was that because of the ruthless handling of players by NFL teams, players should not be demonized for holding out in the middle of the contract for more money. If owners aren't forced to honour the length of the contract they signed, I'm not sure why players should have to as well.

posted by grum@work at 12:25 AM on March 02

They got enough in signing bonuses to go suck, don't feel bad for them when they don't collect on the rest of their contract.

But I should feel bad for the scouting department, GM and owner who signed him?

How is that obtuse

He's saying it's ok for owners to tear up a contract but not players and pretending there's no hypocrisy there. We've been down this road with him in previous threads, I've just never seen the position laid bare like that before. I can appreciate the resentment of players, but I will never understand the love for owners. Who cares what happens to their money? They get 1/32 of a multi-billion dollar pie every year just for showing up before the first ticket is sold. They can afford to honor a bum deal now and again.

Put another way: if you're all for owners being able to renege on a contract, why wouldn't you be for full-out free agency every year? The whole system, from the time a player enters it via a draft that means he can only negotiate with one team (and now, with slot signing caps, effectively can't negotiate at all with that team), is stacked in the owners' favor to keep the deals below the players' market value. On top of that you guys want the owners to be able to tear it up whenever they feel like it, yet when a player does it we get a lot of talk about "honor" and other stuff that has 0 application to employment contracts.

posted by yerfatma at 08:58 AM on March 02

why wouldn't you be for full-out free agency every year?

I should point out that full-out free agency every year for every player would be the single best method of controlling payroll costs for ownership.

Marvin Miller discovered this when they were first negotiating MLB free agency. One of the owners suggested the idea to the other owners, but they turned him down. Miller realized that putting every player up on the market at the same time allows teams to offer LESS to the players, as there is almost always another player at the same position who is pretty close to similar that can be picked up instead. It's why they negotiated the original 6-year window; only small groups of players would be free agents at the same time, leading to low supply but high demand.

Example: If Aaron Rodgers becomes a free agent today, imagine the bidding war by teams hoping to pick up a quarterback.

Now imagine that not only Rodgers, but EVERY other quarterback is available. Really wanted Rodgers, but don't want to pay too much? Then you could "settle" for any number of other quarterbacks: Manning, Manning, Brady, Breeze, Newton, etc.

posted by grum@work at 11:06 AM on March 02

Just how would a musical chairs free agency every year promote any fan connection or loyalty with their team or make following teams any fun. Part of the appeal of your team from year to year, although there are changes, the team is not completely different every year.

I do think some of you are missing my point. Team owners do not tear up contracts at will. Guarantees are made, and the terms regarding the ability to void the contract is part of the contract. Whether or not it is fair is not the issue. Thank you tselson for hearing what I was saying. The labor situation in the NFL has been a source of long term negotiation spanning several lock outs, strikes and numerous league / union contracts.

This is a fact, when a player holds out or refuses to honor his end of the contract he is in effect breaking that contract and holding hostage or extorting more money out of the team, who in most cases find a way to settle. Why because you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. Players typically hold out when they are producing, and that in itself gives teams the incentive to work it out. When teams release a player or do not opt to pick up contract extensions or pay bonuses to continue the contract, they are not breaking the contract, they are opting out of the contract by way of a contractual clause the player, his agents and lawyers have agreed to. Fair or not in your eyes, that is what has been negotiated between players and their employers, their union and the league.

Please don't worry though, because when this collective bargaining agreement expires, all of these same issues will come to the surface again at the expense of the fans and all the peripheral dependents of the business of pro football.

Personally, of all the major team sports leagues, I believe the NFL is the most exciting, most competitive, and most popular in the USA. While I understand just how tough it is to be a player, and how great the rewards can be, a big part of why the money is so great and the league so popular is due to both the talent of the players, and the way the league is run. It is a better model than any other major sport, ensuring competitive balance, and a majority of meaningful games.

I make more in less than 4 years than league minimum in the NFL ($375,000). I don't have a particularly high paying job, but then again I don't run the risk of suffering job/life threatening injuries multiple times a day during my time at the office.

Maybe you should be talking about the league average not the base minimum. I can assure you very few players that make the league minimum are actually playing on the field for any length of time. Although your job does not put you at risk of physical injury or death, (unless you count stress related heart attack or other work related issues) many people in this country do very physical jobs and far more dangerous jobs for far less money than the league minimum. The average salary for NFL players is estimated at $1.1 million. This is the key part of salary you may be missing, the average NFL signing bonus is $1.34 million.

posted by Atheist at 12:06 PM on March 02

The list Grows:
Ward,
Aaron Smith,
Chris Kemoyato,
James Farrior,

posted by Debo270 at 12:10 PM on March 02

Maybe you should be talking about the league average not the base minimum.

No, you should probably be talking about the league median salary, since the league average will be heavily affected by the few megabucks superstars that make orders of magnitude more than others. Median salary is $770,000.

posted by LionIndex at 12:56 PM on March 02

The average salary for NFL players is estimated at $1.1 million. This is the key part of salary you may be missing, the average NFL signing bonus is $1.34 million.

1. So what?
2. The average signing bonus is a complete canard: it's the average bonus handed out to people who received bonuses, not the average amount some 7th round pick gets.

My general problem here, beyond your incredible double standard in the specific, is the double standard in general: if this were any other industry, I am guessing you'd be bitching we should let the free market decide and trust Adam Smith's Invisible Hand, though it might be tickling our special place a little bit too much.

posted by yerfatma at 01:10 PM on March 02

Let me get this straight. According to Athiest:

A player performs below the potential of his contract (paid as the 2nd best running back, but puts up numbers as the 21st best running back), and the team wants to adjust the terms of the contract (by terminating it and not paying him any more). That's good!

A player performs above the potential of his contract (paid as the 21st best running back, but puts up numbers as the 2nd best running back), and the player wants to adjust the terms of the contract (by holding out and requesting a pay raise). That's bad!

posted by grum@work at 01:35 PM on March 02

Yep, because your first option is in the contract and the second isn't. So fuck the players, it's their own fault for signing dumb contracts, should have known better. Disclaimer: Probable exaggeration of Athiest's position.

posted by apoch at 01:57 PM on March 02

I think the NFL should learn the lessons of corporate America. If you sign a player to a monster deal, and he underperforms, even helping the team go bankrupt, he should be rewarded.

Okay, so that was a complete derail, and not really germane to the discussion at all.

Back on topic. Great career, Hines Ward. All of the linebackers in the NFL will look back at getting speared from behind after the play is over and shed just a single, sad tear.

posted by tahoemoj at 02:02 PM on March 02

I'd like to keep it that way, do you really want Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith or Jamarcus Russell to get paid a guaranteed contract, with a zero return on the teams investment?

I'd like to see Kevin Everett, Mike Utley and Dennis Byrd get their guaranteed contracts. Baseball has managed to thrive financially with guaranteed contracts. Football could too.

posted by rcade at 02:16 PM on March 02

Yep, because your first option is in the contract and the second isn't

I believe that it actually isn't written in the individual contracts, but part of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFLPA and NFL.

The union allows this to happen.

A "strong union", according to some.

posted by grum@work at 03:26 PM on March 02

The fines for a player under contract that holds is part of the CBA, too, so I don't see the first and second options as being any different on a contractual level. Both are "in" the contract.

posted by bperk at 03:38 PM on March 02

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