Franchise tag would be better fit for Steelers Hampton
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Here's hoping Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton doesn't spend all of that $6.5 million signing bonus that the team agreed to pay him Thursday in one place.
At least not at the same fast-food restaurant.
A part of me is thrilled the Steelers reached a three-year, $21.3 million deal with Hampton before he would have become a free agent next Friday. His "Big Snack" nickname isn't just my all-time favorite. He's one of my favorite players. Anybody who knows him likes him, a long list that includes George W. Bush -- his good friend from the great state of Texas -- who blew by everyone in the Steelers' traveling party to give him a bear hug when the team visited the White House after Super Bowl XL. His teammates absolutely adore him. It's hard to imagine them being happier for anyone striking it rich.
Hampton just finished a five-year, $22,775,000 contract.
Super-sizing his burger and fries hasn't been an issue for him for some time.
That isn't to say it hasn't been a problem, though.
That's why it's hard to be too ecstatic about big Hamp's big deal and why it's fair to think that putting the franchise tag on him and giving him a one-year deal for $7 million would have been more prudent strategy for the Steelers.
I know what you're thinking: It's really hard to argue with most of the Rooneys' personnel decisions. Former linebacker Jason Gildon is about the only player I can remember them paying too much for too long. But Hampton's contract seems like a bit of a risk. It could make him fat. Literally.
In 2008, Hampton showed up for training camp badly out of shape. Coach Mike Tomlin was so annoyed that he publicly humiliated him by putting him on the physically unable-to-perform list. Hampton shrugged, promised to be ready for the start of the season, had a Pro Bowl year and helped the Steelers win Super Bowl XLIII.
Last season, Hampton had no weight worries when he reported to Latrobe. Of course, he knew he had to play well to get a new contract. He did just that, making his fifth Pro Bowl.
Now, Hampton has that new deal.
Will he be just as motivated to push himself away from the dinner table?
Hey, it's a legit question.
So is this:
What might Hampton weigh in 2012 if there's no football in '11 because of a work stoppage?
Frightening thought, isn't it?
The concerns about Hampton's weight and age -- he'll turn 33 Sept. 3 -- are why that franchise tag had "Big Snack" written all over it. He would have hated that. Like all players, he wanted long-term security, not a one-year deal. He said the tag would have been a big problem for him. I believe he used the expression "slap in the face."
For $7 million, we all should be so offended.
If a fear of Hampton's angst is why the Steelers gave him three years, they're dead wrong. The franchise tag is a tool for teams to keep their best players, one that was negotiated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players' union. So what if Hampton would have been unhappy? So what if he would have held out of camp? There's no way he wouldn't have been there for the start of the season and no way that he wouldn't have been driven to play his best. For those adoring teammates, sure. But also for his next contract. To think otherwise would be an insult to his intelligence. And he's a really smart guy.
Now, Hampton must find all of his motivation from within.
We'll see how that goes.
Hampton's contract did come with one immediate benefit for the Steelers: It enabled them to hang the franchise tag on kicker Jeff Reed, which means he's locked in here next season for $2,814,000, barring the negotiation of a long-term contract. That's not so good for Reed, who figured to make more as a free agent, especially after the Oakland Raiders signed kicker Sebastian Janikowski to a four-year, $16 million deal earlier this month. But it's great for the team. Reed's kickoffs have been weak and he had two immature, alcohol-related incidents in the past year, but there's no one I'd rather have kicking a 48-yard field goal with the game on the line. I'm loving that he's staying.
Big Snack, too.
I just wish it were for one year, not three.
First Published February 26, 2010 12:00 am