Saints’ Moore seeks big-time payday
Lance Moore understands that some players might enjoy the respite from offseason workouts and practices brought by the NFL lockout.
Moore isn’t one of them, though.
The New Orleans Saints wide receiver is one of the veterans most affected by the work stoppage. Not only is he unsigned, Moore is among the players who won’t know their free-agent status until personnel rules are put in place for the 2011 season — provided there even is one.
That means the set-for-life payday Moore has sought since entering the league in 2005 may still be out of reach.
“I’m not under contract. I don’t have a team. I don’t know what my situation is going to be,” Moore told my co-host, Jim Miller, and me on Sirius XM NFL Radio. “This is a horrible situation for the guys that it affects the most, and that’s free agents.
“For guys who are under contract and know where they are going to be and families are going to live, (the lockout) might be good for them. They can train on their own and get a little bit of extra rest. But for me, it’s been horrible. I can’t wait for it to get over so I can finally sign with a team. Hopefully that team will be the Saints.”
The Saints have interest in re-signing Moore, who scored a team-high eight touchdowns as part of a 66-catch, 763-yard receiving campaign in 2010. But the dynamics of such a transaction will be dictated by whether Moore is declared a restricted or unrestricted free agent.
Moore was relegated to restricted status in 2010 because the number of accrued seasons needed to become an unrestricted free agent jumped from four to six during the final year of the collective-bargaining agreement. Now set to enter his sixth NFL season, Moore could find himself in the same restricted situation once again.
If an eighth circuit appellate court rules the NFL must lift its lockout after granting a temporary stay last month, the league will be forced to implement free-agent guidelines that could be similar to those from 2010. The legal decision might come this week, although it seems increasingly likely the court will wait to make its next major decision on the stay at a June 3 hearing in St. Louis.
Before the lockout, the Saints placed a second-round tender on Moore for the third consecutive season. If allowed to stand, that would place a chilling effect on Moore’s appeal to teams hesitant to surrender a high draft choice when other wideouts are unrestricted free agents who would require no such compensation.
As an unrestricted free agent, Moore, 27, would be considered among the most attractive receivers in a class that includes Braylon Edwards (Jets), Santana Moss (Washington), Randy Moss (Tennessee) and Terrell Owens (Cincinnati).
The Saints would then be more exposed to Moore signing a larger contract elsewhere. The signing bonus/guaranteed money that Moore would be offered as an unrestricted free agent would likely top the $4.37 million in base salary that Moore has earned collectively in five NFL seasons (he spent most of 2006 on New Orleans’ practice squad).
The inability to test the free-agent market in 2010 is one of the factors that prompted two restricted players from last season (San Diego wide receiver Vincent Jackson and New England guard Logan Mankins) to join the Brady-v.-NFL lawsuit. The filing alleges antitrust violations prohibiting player movement and calls for the court to demand the lifting of the NFL lockout.
Like Moore, standout young receivers like Minnesota’s Sidney Rice, Arizona’s Steve Breaston and the New York Jets’ Santonio Holmes are also in NFL limbo regarding their free-agent status because of the seasons they have accrued. But all three of those players were drafted, which means they have earned much larger rookie signing bonuses than the $2,000 that Moore received from Cleveland in 2005 as an undrafted college free agent.
Moore played for NFL-minimum salaries of $435,000 and $520,000 in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Moore’s salary rose to $1.55 million and $1.76 million the past two seasons under the second-round restricted tender.
During that stretch, Moore has been one of the NFL’s best bargains with 191 catches and a key two-point conversion in Super Bowl XLIV that helped spur a New Orleans victory over Indianapolis. But rather than be bitter with the Saints at the lack of a lucrative contract extension, Moore hopes a deal can be reached that will keep him in New Orleans.
“As of now, I’m a Saint. I can’t look at it any other way,” Moore said. “I love playing in New Orleans. Right now, I can’t picture myself playing anywhere else. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. I think we’ve got a great thing going down there.”
Moore, though, also knows nothing is certain until the work stoppage ends. Hoping to reduce the chance of injury, Moore is training on his own rather than participating in Saints player workouts being coordinated in New Orleans by quarterback Drew Brees.
“I feel like the risk is too great,” said Moore, echoing the thoughts of other unsigned players who are skipping player-organized workouts. “If you get hurt down there, there’s no telling what’s going to happen.”
And as Moore knows all too well, the same can be said of his contractual future.