The Bible tells us that in the apocalyptic time:
“And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled…” (Matthew 24:6)
The sports world seems to be in a time – – not nearly apocalyptic – – where it would be a good idea to think in terms of:
- “And ye shall hear of trades and rumors of trades; see that ye not be troubled.”
You cannot pick up a sports section or click onto a sports news website these days without hearing about rumored trades or trades that ought to be made or players wanting/demanding trades. So, let me talk about a couple specific situations this morning…
The NBA trade deadline is about 4 weeks away; teams will decide if they are going to add or subtract from their starting lineups very soon. That situation alone creates multiple scenarios for trade speculations. For example, in the Eastern Conference, there are 9 teams within 3 games of one another straddling the cutoff line for the playoffs. Some will decide to make a playoff push and others will not – – but at this point, there is no way to tell which team will be in which situation. So, the rumor potential is exponentially increased. See that ye are not troubled; I just want to look at five situations:
- Several pieces have been written with the following thrust: The Pistons want to trade Blake Griffin, but no one seems to want him. Griffin is only 31 years old; it only seems as though he and Fred Flintstone were teammates back in the day. A report at CBSSports.com says that Griffin has played 626 minutes this season and has not yet dunked. He has had multiple knee surgeries and is averaging 12 points and 5 rebounds per game (in his 19 minutes per game). And here is the kicker. His contract calls for a salary in 2021 of $36.8M PLUS a player option for next year at $39M. Yowza…!
- Rumors of a Kyle Lowry trade have appeared in plenty of places. At 18 points per game and 7 assists per game, he looks to be something a lot of teams would want. Except … he is 35 years old and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Teams interested in acquiring him should probably have an eye on a deep playoff run this year.
- Bleacher Report said that Kristaps Porzingis might be “available”. On one hand a guy who is 7’3” and can reliably make 3-point shots represents a special talent. On the other hand, with him parked out in the 3-point area much of the time, he spends about 30 minutes on the court per game and takes down only 2 offensive rebounds per game. Really? From a contract standpoint, he is signed through the end of the 2023/24 season.
- Does your team need a 3-point shooter? JJ Redick is still in the NBA (Pelicans this year) and he is on an expiring contract.
- Does your team need a shot-blocker/rebounder? JaVale McGee is still in the NBA (Cavaliers this year) and he is on an expiring contract too.
The rumors of trades regarding NFL QBs are rampant this year. Certainly, the fact that 3 starting QBs from last year have already been traded to new teams for next year has fueled the speculation. Added to that unusual degree of movement are “inside stories” that about a half-dozen other teams plan to release or move on from their starter in 2021. As of this morning, the two QBs at the center of the rumor vortex are:
- Deshaun Watson
- Russell Wilson
The narrative is that both men are chagrined because their team has not sought sufficient input from them about the direction of the team and/or the personnel on the team and/or in the team’s front office. Multiple reports say that Watson has told the team he will not play there again; a few reports say that Wilson “stormed out of a meeting” with the coaches prior to a game last year over the offensive game plan. Let me assume for a minute that all the reports are accurate and that the players are indeed far beyond being miffed.
If the players want a trade and that is their supreme objective, it should be in the best interests of all sides to prevent this from becoming a latter-day version of the Gunfight at the OK Corral. In a pitched battle where neither side chooses to blink, everyone is a loser; let me explain.
- Both QBs are under contract to their current teams and both contracts reportedly have a “no trade clause” in them. Therefore, no trade is possible without the player’s side waiving that provision of the contract.
- Rumors say that Watson and Wilson both have “favored destinations” should they be traded. Let me assume those reports are 100% accurate.
- That ”no trade clause” could be weaponized if the team side of this contretemps gets all pissy. The gentlemanly way out of the clause is for the team to arrange a trade to a favored destination and then the clause is waived, and the trade goes through. But suppose the team gets itself into high dudgeon and tells the player that either the clause is waived unconditionally, or the team will not entertain offers for his services. See you in training camp…
All that sort of “in your face” exchange of views is detrimental to both sides. If the player holds out, his contract tolls – – meaning it used to have three more years to run before free agency but now it has four. Declarations of “never suiting up for those guys again” by the player reduces his trade value; while he may not care if his current team gets maximum value for him, he ought to care that the current team perceives that they are getting “sufficient value” for him or there may not be the trade he nominally wants.
The only thing missing from the reports about Watson and the Texans and about Wilson and the Seahawks is for one side to begin their “rebuttal” to the latest proclamation by saying, “Oh, yeah…?” Elementary school playground arguments have proceeded in a more orderly fashion than these two have.
The one outcome of either confrontation that I believe is off the table is that either QB retires and goes off to “take their life in a different direction”. Both have made enough money already to live comfortably for the rest of their lives, but both would also be leaving a ton of money on the table by retiring – the schoolyard equivalent of taking their ball and going home.
- Deshaun Watson earned $13.8M from 2017 to 2021. When he signed his contract extension (through the end of the 2025 season) he got a signing bonus of $27M. So, he has already banked just over $40M; what he would have to be sure of in any sort of “retirement scenario” is that the team would have little recourse to claw back that $27M signing bonus.
- However, the “retirement scenario” also leaves $146M on the table. To put it bluntly, that is a lot of cheese. Moreover, that humongous tail to the contract that exists today presents the Texans with a huge disincentive to make any sort of trade for Watson. My calculation of the dead cap hit should the Texans trade him tomorrow is $66M. Even if I am off by 10% – – which I doubt – – that would be about one-third of the estimated salary cap for the Texans in 2021.
- Russell Wilson has earned $90M from 2012 to 2021. His current deal runs through the end of 2023 and he stands to earn another $70M in those remaining years. His signing bonus for this deal was $65M so he would certainly not want to be exposed to a claw back there.
- There is little motivation for the Seahawks to entertain a trade for Wilson now. Like Deshaun Watson, the Seahawks would take a massive dead cap hit should they trade him anywhere; my calculation is a dead cap hit of $58M.
It seems obvious to me that the best way to arrive at a resolution acceptable to both sides in both disputes – – note I did not say optimal for both sides, I said acceptable – – is for the two sides to cooperate and not aggravate the other side. Of course, that behavior does not make for “Breaking News” or for an ”Insider Report” so there is a benefit to outsiders in keeping the level of rancor from going to zero. Too bad…
Finally, perhaps the two sides in these two player/team disputes should heed the words of poet/playwright, Oscar Wilde:
“Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………