Thursday, February 21, 2008

News on Starks, Other Stuff

I think that I mentioned somewhere in this blog that I believed the Steelers were going to let Max Starks walk in free agency. Well, I'm dumb. They placed the transition tag on him. In my defense, they're dumber than I am, because the transition tag isn't worth anything.

Anyone that has the transition tag placed on them gets paid the average of the top 10 players at their position. Tackle is not broken up into left and right tackle, so we're basically paying him like the 10th best left tackle in the game. And he's not worth that.

Plus which, the transition tag only gives the Steelers right of first refusal on a contract offer made by another team. If they let him walk, they get nothing. If they are forced to let him walk, they get nothing. You may recall the transition tag from the 2006 offseason. The Seahaws placed it on Steve Hutchinson shortly after they lost Super Bowl XL to the Steelers (yep, that's right, we won that Super Bowl). Minnesota came along and offered Hutchinson a contract with what lawyers like to call "poison pills" in it. It said that the contract was voided if Hutchinson didn't play half of his games in the state of Minnesota that season, that he'd be due huge roster bonuses if he played half his games in the state of Washington, stuff like that. Seattle couldn't match the contract, so they lost him and got nothing.

While they were busy getting nothing in return, they were on the salary cap books for paying Hutchinson top-10 money for a guard. Since that time, no one has used the transition tag on anybody. You'll also remember that the Bungholes (I find it interesting that spell check underlines Bungles in red, but leaves Bungholes alone) also lost Takeo Spikes to the Bills because they designated them as their transition player.

The interesting thing is that, by doing this, the Steelers can prove just how a dumb a move it was to risk paying Starks about $8.5 million for just this season by sitting around and doing nothing. I think it's pretty unlikely that anyone's going to offer him a contract, since the only type of contract another team would offer is a big one that the Steelers wouldn't match... and no one's going to pay top dollar for a back-up right tackle that lost his job to a dude named after part of your ass. They'll end up either having to sign him to a long term deal or eating that big cap number and watching him walk away next offseason. If they don't franchise him, that is.

Wiki does a better job of explaining the transition tag than I did, so here's that:

I also heard that Kevin Colbert said he used the transition tag on Starks because he thought the Steelers wouldn't be able to match any offer that Alan Faneca got on the open market. Really, Kevin? You're sure about that? I thought the Steelers front office wrote off all chances of Faneca suiting up for the Steelers in 2008 in July 2007 (if not earlier) like the rest of us did. So, that's another level of stupid.

At any rate, they're probably going to sign Starks to a long term deal. Max Starks. A guy who pretty well stunk in 2006, was benched at the beginning of 2007, and somehow ended up playing left tackle towards the end of 2007. Maybe Marvel Smith is hurt worse than we think and the Steelers brain trust believes Starks can be a good left tackle. I don't believe that, but I've been wrong before -- like in 2004 when I thought the Steelers were dumb for drafting Roethlisberger, 2005 when I thought they were dumb for drafting Heath, and when I thought that the Duce Staley and Cedrick Wilson signings were both "good pick-ups."

By the way: This is only the beginning. I foresee a very busy offseason for our favorite team. (Mark this one down, too. It could end up being a tremendously dumb statement.)

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