Whether it’s an opportunity for more playing time or being in a great city, the most important factor for the vast majority of players set to hit free agency is money.
I know the fans hate to hear this, but money is the motive. This game is too dangerous, too tough and consumes you in every way to do it purely for the love. All the love and passion you put into it hopefully results in ROI. The NFL is a business run for maximum utility, more than any other professional sport due to no guaranteed contracts.
For the owners the NFL is a long-term game; for the players the NFL it’s a short-term game.
You have to strike while the money is hot and most players do. Every once in a while you come across a player for whom it’s not about the money. That is refreshing. Keep in mind, though, they already made all the money and now they either want to win or just be comfortable.
This leads me to think about Golden Tate and the situation that he is in with the Super Bowl-winning Seattle Seahawks. Riley Cooper set the market for a good but not great wide receiver, making $5 million a year with the deal he struck with the Eagles two weeks ago.
I have no doubt in my mind that Tate is at least that valuable to Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense. Tate was the go-to guy all year. He was Mr. Consistent and Mr. Reliable.
When a huge play was needed in the passing game, Tate made it; coincidentally, it started a couple years back at home against the Green Bay Packers with that infamous touchdown with the replacement referees.
Tate has been doing it since, either catching first downs, touchdowns, or blocking for Marshawn Lynch, aka Beast Mode, putting his team in position to win.
Tate is in a precarious position, which is similar to the circumstances that I was in 2008. Tate is playing for the team that drafted him. He doesn’t want to leave even though there might be teams out there that will offer him more money. The Seahawks will ultimately offer him less money because he stated that he wants to stay in Seattle. Therefore, he has devalued himself.
I hope he is able to have continued success in Seattle but also get what’s due to him, ala Cooper.
For free agents, it is important not to blur the lines between loyalty and business. At any point in time, your career can be over. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. You have to be loyal to you and your family.
Fans, like owners, also are playing a long-term game. You can cheer for your team from the day you are born until the day you die, but it’s different for players. Loyalty, to me, means being loyal to the name on the back of your jersey and the name on the front of my jersey comes second. A team will cut you; a team will trade you, as soon as you are no longer of value to it. As long as you are winning football games and putting fans in the seats, you are the man. A lot of fans forget to see the business side of the game so I keep reiterating that professional sports are 100 percent a business.
When talking about loyalty and being loyal to the name on the back of your jersey, that ties into your legacy. At one point, free agents were concerned about tarnishing their legacy by playing for more than one team in their career.
After having a successful career in both Chicago and Baltimore, I have a loyal fan base in both cities. I have doubled my fan base in essence and it’s better for my brand.
To Tate and all the free agents: Play as long as you can and make as much money as you can in the league. It takes time to comfortably make the transition into your second career and it’s important to have that extra cushion you can rely on to help you find the way when it is all said and done.