Ok, yes. As some of you may remember, a couple of months ago I posted a piece called “The Top 5 Stories You’ll Be Sick Of By August” and included among them was whether or not Bowe would get an extended deal before preseason. But, since we know that final decision today, there was no way around commenting on it.
The deadline for Bowe to sign a long-term deal has now passed. Unless the Chiefs are holding off on making an announcement, Bowe will be signing the one-year franchise tag and this is the best-case scenario for the team.
Although the signing indicates that there will be no more negotiations on extending Bowe this season, it also makes perfect sense for a number of reasons.
1.) The Chiefs Hold All the Cards
First and foremost, from a business perspective, one simple rule is that you don’t guarantee money deep into the future unless you have to – we’re not the Oakland freakin’ Raiders. Currently, the Chiefs hold all the cards and cannot be pressured to deal. Although we don’t yet know what Bowe is asking, unless it is an amazingly humble offer, the Chiefs have every reason to walk away from it. Although the Chiefs desperately need Bowe’s production on the field, they know that Bowe can’t afford to hold out into the season if he has any hopes of a big free agency payday. Bowe hasn’t totally shaken his reputation as a troublemaker with a bit of a freelancing streak. If Todd Haley did one good thing for this team, it was reining in Bowe’s ego, but if Dwayne starts going all Ochocinco on the Chiefs, his value will plummet. Obviously, the Chiefs know this.
To get the generous, long-term deal he wants, the best thing that Bowe can do for himself in 2012 is by having the best, most drama-free season of his career. As it happens, that exactly what the Chiefs want out of him too, and they figure it’s best to keep the carrot hanging in front of him. Even if Bowe were to hold out, the Chiefs are stacked enough offensively to be able to handle his absence for a while. Charles and Moeaki are back and Baldwin will have a full offseason to prepare this season. He has similar physical characteristics to Bowe, and could try to play his role in the offense in a pinch.
2.) This Gives the Chiefs More Time to Evaluate Baldwin
As mentioned above, Jon Baldwin has the potential to fill in for Bowe, but so far he has shown very little to indicate he is ready. He made a few beautiful catches throughout the season, but he was nowhere to be found in most games, finishing with just 21 receptions in 2011. However, as many noted, the silver lining of Bowe’s absence at voluntary workouts was that Baldwin was getting lots of experience as the starter. Of course, we have no idea if he’s actually doing anything right at these practices, as this is the part of the offseason with the least transparency and the most hyperbolic positivity. I’ve heard he is working hard, studying hard and showing heart on the field, but, then again, what do you expect them to say?
If Baldwin really comes on this season, it gives the Chiefs even more leverage with Bowe – particularly if Devon Wylie shows something and we get consistent production out of Steve Breaston. Again, we don’t yet know what Bowe is asking, but I imagine it is more than the $9.515 million he is making with the franchise tag this year. The always-insightful Cordell of The Film Room tweeted out today, “Matt Cassel and Flowers new deals paid out nearly 15 mil each in first year…I can see Bowe thinking he is at or above that level.” If that is the case, then the Chiefs will be saving money this year and maybe even next year.
Next year, Bowe’s franchise number would be $11.418 million, which is still less than he would make in the first year of a long-term deal – big first-year bonuses are pro forma with these sorts of things. We should re-franchise Bowe if Baldwin improves, but it is clear that Bowe will remain the starter. If they think that JB can transition into the starter in 2013, then it makes sense to rent Bowe for just one more year. If it looks like Baldwin will remain a complementary piece, then we pay Bowe long-term.
Either way, we still have Breaston for four more years on a relatively cheap deal with only $9.5 million in total guarantees, Baldwin costs us about $7.5 million per year and Devon Wylie, if he is all that he is made out to be, will be a steal for his $2.6 million over four years. This means that, despite the fact this is going to be a run-first team, the Chiefs can easily afford to re-sign Bowe without over-valuing the position group. His deal would likely even out such that we would be paying around $20 million annually for receivers overall. Given the growing importance of the passing game, that’s not too bad. By the way, the Chiefs are currently $16.548 million under the cap.
In short, don’t panic.
Bowe’s not going anywhere unless the Chiefs are prepared to part with him, and we can afford to lock him up long-term without breaking the bank. Pioli played this one smart.