As the Green Bay Packers open their first mandatory minicamp of the offseason today, the biggest question is whether safety Nick Collins will practice.
Collins, the Packers starting strong safety last season, made a brief appearance in Green Bay last week – only the second day he showed up at any of the Packers OTAs.
When I say his appearance was brief, I mean he was apparently only in town for one day, and he didn’t even participate in a full practice. After walk-throughs, Collins disappeared with the Packers players who are rehabbing injuries.
Collins wasn’t available to the media after practice and Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy didn’t seem to know what was going on with Collins in his post-practice press conference.
Now, it’s pretty clear that no one knows what’s going on with Collins – something the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Greg A. Bedard (not be confused with Greg B. Bedard) pointed out – other than the fact that he wants a new contract.
His appearance could well have been a way to show fans he’s playing nice with contract demands. Or he’s hoping to learn a little something about the defense before the mandatory minicamp Monday. Dave Butz, Collins’ agent, did not reply to an e-mail seeking an explanation.
If Collins, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, doesn’t show up today, the Packers can fine him for each day of mandatory practice he misses. However, Collins could well show up and feign injury or simply refuse to practice with the team.
One way or another, it looks as if Collins will be a distraction for a team implementing a new defensive scheme. And while we think Collins earned a new deal after making the Pro Bowl last season, he’s not even the Packers first target for a new contract.
That would be All-World receiver Greg Jennings, who is also entering the last season of his rookie deal. Jennings’ contract pays him a base salary of $535,000, which is a paltry sum for a No. 1 receiver.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much movement by the Packers on this front either. As detailed by ProFootballTalk.com, a recent encounter between Jennings and Bedard produced this exchange.
“I kidded [Jennings] about buying up all the auction items at James Jones’ recent charity event. Jones and I both said Jennings’ big money must be close to fruition. A dead-serious Jennings replied, ‘Then you guys must know something I don’t, that’s for sure.’ ”
The Packers have plenty of salary cap space to take care of both players, so what gives, Ted?
One factor that could have the Packers sitting on their hands is their current financial situation.
While the team is still profitable, profits dipped from $23 million to $4 million, this year. That’s an 80 percent decrease.
Ironically, or perhaps not, the report from Packers.com carries this subhead: RISING PLAYER COSTS REMAIN A CONCERN.
While both the economy and a losing season have definitely hurt revenue, the former accounting for major investment losses, player costs have continued to go up.
National revenue, comprised mainly of television contracts and other league media and sponsorship deals, rose $11.5 million, from $135.6 million to $147.1 million.
But that rise in national revenue was outpaced once again by the $14 million jump in player salaries – from $124.7 million to $138.7 million – a continuing trend that was the primary reason the league owners opted out of the current collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union. That agreement is now set to expire in March 2011 unless a new deal is struck before then.
For the Packers, operating expenses outside of player costs actually fell $6.1 million, as the organization monitored expenses closely during the downturn in the economy.
But the $14 million boost in player salaries still created a $7.9 million rise in overall expenses, and when the increase in national revenues is not able to keep pace with the rise in player salaries, it puts added pressure on all NFL organizations, including the Packers, to boost their local revenues.
And so, one has to wonder if Packers’ CEO Mark Murphy has asked Ted Thompson to hold off on any big-money player contracts. While fiscally responsible, it will be interesting to see what kind of distraction these contract negotiations play, this summer.