Paul Domowitch: Making cents of Brown situation

Reggie Brown's contract is working against him.
Reggie Brown's contract is working against him.
Posted: September 18, 2009

The Eagles are caught between a rock and a hard place with Reggie Brown.

Because of the contract extension the wide receiver signed in November 2006, the team can't afford to trade him and can't afford to release him. That's why he is still an Eagle.

Brown's deal, which runs through 2014, includes $7.3 million in bonus proration over the next 4 years, according to sources familiar with the contract. If the Eagles trade or release him, all of that $7.3 million, minus his $844,000 base salary for this year, would get accelerated into the Eagles' 2009 cap.

According to league sources, the Eagles have about $9 million in cap space. Brown's 2009 cap number is $3.2 million, including $2.35 million in bonus proration.

In previous years, if you released a player with bonus proration left on his contract, you absorbed the prorated amount for just that year, with the remaining proration charged to the following year's cap.

But because of the possibility of 2010 being an uncapped year, the rules have changed a bit. Bonus prorations of released players are being treated the same way as those of traded players.

The Eagles have received several inquiries from teams in recent weeks about Brown's availability, but have been reluctant to pull the trigger on a trade because of the cap hit they'd have to take. Same thing with releasing him. So he sits.

He wasn't even activated for last week's game against Carolina. When the team needed roster space to sign quarterback Jeff Garcia, it dumped another wideout, Hank Baskett, rather than Brown, even though Baskett played last week and, unlike Brown, can contribute on special teams.

There were no cap consequences for releasing Baskett, who signed a 1-year, $1.5 million deal in the offseason.

"I don't know about Hank's contract," Brown said yesterday, when asked if he thought that's why Baskett got released rather than him. "I don't even know about my contract."

He might want to call his agent and find out.

Brown's cap numbers and base salaries for the final 5 years of his deal: 2010, $3 million, $1.2 million; 2011, $2.8 million, $1.3 million; 2012, $3.4 million, $1.7 million; 2013, $3.2 million (all salary); 2014, $3.8 million (also all salary).

Because of the fairly low base salaries in 2010 and 2011 for a player with his experience, his deal clearly would be a favorable one for any team that traded for him. All they would be responsible for is his 2009 base of $844,000 plus his subsequent salaries for as long as he was with the team. That's not the problem.

But as long as the Eagles refuse to trade or release him and refuse to play him, Brown essentially is the NFL's version of A Man Without a Country.

"You just try to stay positive," he said. "You try as hard as you can and you keep working hard. Even a rose can grow out of piles of [bleep]. Why can't I?"

While he frequently has been the butt of talk-show jokes, the truth is Brown is not a bad player. He proved that in his first three seasons with the Eagles when he caught 150 balls. If they released him, he would have no trouble finding another job. If they released him.

"I just want to play," he said. "I think I'll get an opportunity to play here, and make the best of it. I've been dealing with [not playing] since last year.

"I can't sit around and hope and wish. I've just got to go out there and make something happen."

Around the league

-- The thought of an NFL world without a salary cap once scared the bejesus out of the league's owners. It's the primary reason they overwhelmingly approved a player-friendly collective-bargaining extension 3 years ago. But now, a growing number of owners no longer fear the prospect of the cap going away next year, which is why there is almost no chance of the league and the NFL Players Association hammering out a new labor agreement by March.

"I do think that the owners have overcome whatever concern or reluctance they may have had in the past to go into an uncapped year," said Jeff Pash, the NFL's executive vice president of labor. "I think they recognize that an uncapped year is likely from an economic perspective and a competitive perspective to not be worse than what they're dealing with now. And if [going to an uncapped year in 2010] is a necessary step to get a new agreement that has an economic system that is more balanced and better for the long-term health of the game, it's one that they're prepared to take."

-- The Cowboys hope to set an NFL attendance record Sunday when they host the Giants in the first regular-season game at owner Jerry Jones' $1.2 billion Taj Mahal. The anticipated crowd: 107,000. The stadium actually seats a little less than 82,000. But it has standing-room-only space in the end zones for another 35,000 people. Jones sold $29 "Party Passes" for those spots.

"Our end zones, we could have done what you traditionally do and fill the end zones with seats," Jones said. "What we did was very little of that. Instead, we created patios and decks. You can put a lot more people in those patios and decks."

Jones feels that a lot of people don't care about being close to the action as much as they care about being on site and being part of the game experience.

-- The Cowboys plan to go with two-tight-end sets as their base formation this season. They feel the development of backup tight end Martellus Bennett more than makes up for any lack of depth they might have at wide receiver.

-- Dolphins coach Tony Sparano was asked the "rhythm" question this week regarding bringing in rookie quarterback Pat White to run the Wildcat during games. White was used sparingly in the Dolphins' Week 1 loss to the Falcons. He ran the ball once and attempted one pass, a deep incompletion.

"It's no different to me than those guys coming off the field on a punt and then going out and playing [on the next possession]," Sparano said. "I don't think it screws up our rhythm."

Sparano said a bigger concern for him is putting in a Wildcat quarterback to throw a pass who has been standing on the sideline. When the Dolphins ran the Wildcat last year, they had running back Ronnie Brown take the direct snap and he almost always ran out of it.

"I think it's difficult when it's a throw," Sparano said. "I don't think he can stand there [on the sideline] like a baseball player and warm him up in the bullpen. I mean, I think it's difficult when it's a throw."

-- A.J. Feeley has to be the most content backup quarterback in NFL history. When he was traded to the Dolphins by the Eagles in 2004, it was clear he would have preferred to stay in Philadelphia as a backup rather than get a starting shot in Miami. And after signing with Carolina this week, he said he has zero interest in supplanting Jake Delhomme as the starter.

"Hopefully, I don't have to play this year," he said. "That's kind of the plan, that things will go the way everyone wants it to go with Jake playing."

Feeley struggled in Miami trying to learn an offense that was nothing like the Eagles' West Coast. Now, he has to learn the Panthers' offense, which also is very dissimilar in terminology and just about everything else from what the Eagles run.

"There's a learning curve with learning a new offense," Feeley said. "Hopefully it comes to me sooner than later. I can't give you a timetable. If I have to play, I have to play. But hopefully that's not the case."

From the lip

-- "He just doesn't get it. He doesn't understand that he represents a great head coach and the rest of those players on that team. Somebody needs to talk to him.'' - Ex-coach and current NFL Network analyst Mike Martz, on Chicago QB Jay Cutler's attitude in his news conference following the Bears' loss to the Packers

-- "I mean no disrespect to any running back, whether I played with him or didn't. He's in the early stages of his career, and barring any injuries or anything, this guy can be as good as any running back that's ever played. It's just unbelievable what he can do.'' - Vikings QB Brett Favre on running back Adrian Peterson

-- "Our season didn't end. It's not the first time we lost to the Giants. It's not the first time that we've lost the opening game. We start off 0-1. The only thing that it stops us from is having a perfect season.'' - Redskins running back Clinton Portis, on his team's Week 1 loss

-- "How do you fix it? Well, it will be fixed, I promise you. It will be fixed. I'll be back to me.''

- Panthers QB Jake Delhomme, on rebounding from his poor performance vs. the Eagles

By the numbers

-- The Redskins are 28-7 in games that Clinton Portis rushed for 80 or more yards, and 10-36 in games when he rushed for less than that.

-- With their 34-20 loss to the Vikings, the Browns are 1-10 in season openers since their 1999 rebirth. All 11 games have been at home.

-- The Bucs will play the Bills in Buffalo on Sunday for the first time in their 34-year history.

-- The Bills' 25-24 loss to the Patriots on Monday was their 17th defeat in the last 18 games against New England.

-- Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme has turned the ball over 11 times (nine interceptions, two lost fumbles) in the last seven quarters.

-- Since realignment in 2002, 48 of the league's 84 playoff teams (57.1 percent) opened the season 1-1 or 0-2. Four of the past eight Super Bowl champions started 1-1 or 0-2.

-- With a win over the Bears this week, the Steelers' Mike Tomlin can become the first coach of the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to lead his team to 2-0 starts in the first 3 years of his head-coaching career.

Believe it or not

Of the 21 passes Brett Favre threw in the Vikings' 34-20 win over the Browns, just four traveled more than 5 yards in the air.

Thumbs down

To ESPN for its misleading report on the Eagles' decision not to activate the $7 million option bonus in the contract extension that Brian Westbrook signed last year. John Clayton wrote, "Brian Westbrook's long-term security isn't as long as he had anticipated." Uh, actually, it's exactly as long as he had anticipated. The option bonus was only put into Westbrook's extension so that the deal would comply with the league's cap-accounting rules. Both he and his agent, Todd France, were well aware of that and had no problem with it. As was pointed out in the Daily News on Wednesday, a source close to Westbrook acknowledged that Westbrook and France viewed the final 3 years of the deal, which were voided when the option bonus wasn't picked up, as "dummy years." As in make-believe. When Westbrook signed the extension, he knew he would be a free agent after the 2010 season.

Thumbs up

To media-friendly New York Jets coach Rex Ryan. In this era of paranoid, tight-lipped coaches unwilling to divulge even the most harmless information to the outside world, Ryan understands that the media doesn't have to be your enemy. After a training-camp practice in August, Ryan took 15 reporters into a team meeting room and broke down the tape of 16 plays from the Jets' preseason game against the Rams. "I just want to give you an idea what I'm looking for," he said. Earlier, when a reporter asked about a player injury, Ryan asked, "Haven't you guys ever talked to our trainers?" When a PR flak rushed up to him in a panic and explained that media access to the trainer had been strictly verboten in the past, he smiled and said, "Like I said, you're not supposed to talk to our trainer."

Thumbs down

To Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for showing poor form and running away from ESPN sideline reporter Suzy Kolber as she attempted to interview him Monday after the Patriots' 25-24 win over the Bills. No excuse short of Gisele going into early labor justifies not standing still for 2 lousy minutes and letting Kolber ask him a few innocuous questions. I mean, ESPN is paying Brady's employer, Bob Kraft, and the league's other 31 owners $1.1 billion a year for the broadcast rights to "Monday Night Football."

Thumbs up

To Titans quarterback Vince Young, who surprised Steve McNair's sons Trenton and Tyler by taking them to a "Dear Dads Breakfast'' at their school, St. Paul Christian Academy in Nashville, Tenn. McNair was shot and killed on July 4. Young was close to McNair. They had known each other since Young attended McNair's football camps when he was a teen. "It was a great, great gesture," Julie Dilworth, the admissions director at the school, told the Nashville Tennessean. "All the kids had been talking about the dads' breakfast and [Trenton and Tyler] were wondering what was going to happen with them. They were thrilled." Said Young: "Those are my boys. It was just out of love. Steve would have done it for me. He pretty much did it for me when I was growing up."

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