Saturday, February 11, 2012

Not Debating Or Arguing, Just Time For Hines To Go

Franco Harris, Mike Webster, Rod Woodson, Gregg Lloyd, Carnell Lake, Joey Porter...maybe you have your own example of a player you couldn't stand seeing retire in another uniform. But none has never, and may never, caused quite the emotional stir as Hines Ward.

I can't put it strongly enough how much I love Hines Ward. Check previous posts in this Blog. I love Hines Ward. The post, "Hines Ward Is The Real Man Of Steel" was a t-shirt I had made for me before it became a blog post here. If you know me personally, just ask my friend, Matt Vargo. Though he doesn't read this blog and who goes by @MVargo18 on Twitter, he saw the shirt first-hand after it was made. Plus, it had 12 reasons on it too, not just 10.

Not only is he the epitome of the Pittsburgh Steelers in how the game is played, how to win and lose, how to represent your organization and team when succeeding at other ventures (his whipping out the Terrible Towel upon winning Dancing With The Stars specifically), and, aside from a serious lack in judgment last year when allowing himself to drive while intoxicated, has been THE face of the Steelers for more than a decade.

To any of you who argue that last statement, by the way, by saying that Troy Polamalu has been the face of the organization, you're simply wrong...he's been the hair of the organization. But, I digress...

On his Facebook page this afternoon, Ward said this regarding his future: "I don't normally like to respond to rumors, but as I've said all along I wants to finish my career with the Pittsburgh Steelers." He went on to say how he is willing to restructure his contract to stay in Black and Gold.

Thank you, Hines. We'd love to have you back too. But, this is football. It isn't a university where you could be Wide Receiver Emeritus. It's the NFL, which, as Jerry Glanville once said (not-)so eloquently, stands for "Not for long."

So, I'm sorry, but that just wouldn't be enough. Here's how it works. First, the head coach has to decide whether he can be part of the plan. If not, he's gone. Period. If he can be, then they negotiate.

Hines is scheduled to make over $4 million next season, with almost $3.5 million counting against the salary cap. The minimum for him would be $925,000. So, IF they saw value in keeping him, the amount he'd be offered would something between the minimum and approximately $2 million.

Then there has to be some thought to, if they do see that value, whether they have any real use for a No. 4 (or No. 5) receiver who can't play special teams.

Finally, the recent restructuring of contracts has NOT put the Steelers under the salary cap. They've saved about $15 million, but still need to trim more. As I said before, just restructuring his deal wouldn't be enough.

Most likely what will happen is that the Steelers will try to bring back Jerricho Cotchery first. Cotchery is a younger and faster version of Hines Ward who will test the free agent market. He's someone who could get No. 2 wide receiver money, but who also has said that he likes the organization and playing in Pittsburgh. If so, he could sound Ward's death knell.

If all of this comes to fruition the way it seems at present, losing Hines would still be readily felt. He brings intangibles that can't always be seen on a stat sheet. He's a coach on the field and in the locker room, he's a motivator, and he's an inspiration to the still young wide receiving corps.

Regardless, when the information comes straight from head coach, which at least adds some truth to all that has been said, it's still a situation where the player in question seems to be out the door. It's a business. It's about Rings. It's a money play. And it's a time when I hope to God that I'm wrong.