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Barry Hirstius

ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS: Why Saints Fans Shouldn’t Be Mad at Ndamukong Suh

MONEY $$$. As little children, we're first taught the value of money and then warned about all of the potential harm that it can do, especially when it's not earned or spent for the right reasons. In the case of professional athletes, "getting paid" for their athletic skills and accomplishments are a dual-edged sword that can make them appear to be either greedy or humble in the eyes of some — depending upon what your point of view is.

In the case of the New Orleans Saints and their pursuit of free agent All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, money — as in, NOT ENOUGH of it — will be the ultimate reason why the 31-year old and 5-time Pro Bowl selection (and still one of the League's most dominant interior defenders) will sign with another team.

Presumably, one of those teams could end up being the New York Jets; who it was revealed yesterday had been added to the mix with 3 other "finalists" to secure Suh's services: the Saints, the Los Angeles Rams, and the Tennessee Titans.

According to Yahoo Sports, the Jets are now a serious contender to land Suh, even though they weren't one of the three teams that Suh met with earlier this week. The Jets now have "snuck in" to the fray and become a contender for Suh's services because they're apparently willing to offer an entire boat-load (like the size of a U.S. Navy battleship) of money.

Photo courtesy of The Miami Herald

In fact: NFL.com says that the Jets have made things interesting because they've given Suh his 'biggest' contract offer to date.  

Now all things being what they are, it's not out of the realm of possibility to believe that Suh or his agent (Jimmy Sexton) leaked the Jets' reported large offer in the hope that the Titans, Rams or Saints would increase their offers. 

And all of this took place yesterday just after the Oakland Raiders had also tried to get in the mix earlier this week, when they too had set up a visit with Suh, but the trip was eventually canceled on Wednesday before the 8th-year veteran made it to the Bay Area. 

Jets. Raiders. Rams. Titans. Saints.

Will this guy PICK A TEAM already?!?

That was the prevalent thought among most Saints fans yesterday, who were already in a foul mood as they watched the team and a host of dignitaries from around the world of professional sports and entertainment, honor and pay their final respects to late owner Tom Benson; who was laid to rest on Friday in his final resting place after passing away last week at age 90.

As any one of them will quickly tell you: Suh was never serious about joining the Saints or playing in New Orleans; and he's simply just doing all of this (like getting all the free dinners and luxury hotel accommodations along with it) for the money.

To use an outdated term from my earlier years of adulthood in the 1990's: Suh is "all about the Benjamins".

Photo courtesy of The Miami Herald

But here's why you SHOULDN'T be mad at Ndamukong Suh this morning if you consider yourself to be a Saints fan. which is that the whole 'object' of Free Agency to begin with, is about MAKING AS MUCH MONEY AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN while you are still physically able to do it.

We can scoff at the Free Agency process itself and all of the free dinners and scenic road trips that Suh is going on, but at the end of the day: it's what Free Agency was always created to do (and be taken advantage of).

As Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey notes: before Free Agency, the only option that NFL players had was to use the "reserve rule", which was made more famous by the sport of Major League Baseball and the men who brought it to an end: then-St. Louis Cardinals player and center fielder Curt Flood and agent Marvin Miller.

At that time, the clause in an NFL player's contract allowed the team to re-sign him every year to the same contract, meaning that he wasn't going anywhere unless they traded him or he decided to retire. This was considered acceptable by just about everyone until players started to step forward and demand some sort of role in these transactions

The first free agent to actually switch teams was R.C. Owens in 1962. When Owens left the San Francisco 49ers to go play for the Baltimore Colts (long before they moved to Indianapolis in 1984), 49ers owner Vic Morabito refused to speak to Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom ever again. 

Photo courtesy of The Pro Football Hall of Fame

Then the very next year (in early 1963), NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle instituted the "Rozelle Rule." It allowed the commissioner, at his discretion, to compensate any team losing a free agent with money or draft picks — but taken from the other team without needing their approval.

Fortunately, the Rozelle Rule was challenged and struck down (1976 in Mackey v. NFL), but then the NFL attempted to institute what became known as "Plan B" free agency.

This allowed owners to protect 37 of their players — often the best players and most potentially lucrative free agents — with the right of first refusal. This also imposed a compensation schedule to the players that was similar to the Rozelle Rule, only with an additional set of rules.

Photo courtesy of The Pro Football Hall of Fame

This became the precursor of what we know as the "franchise tag" and "restricted free agency" today. 

Unrestricted free agency didn't begin as we know it until 1992. And since that time now over 25 years ago, NFL Free Agency has led to more competitive balance in the league.

As Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey notes:

Thanks to the advent of modern-day NFL Free Agency over 25 years ago (and the first big "move" that year when legendary NFL defensive end Reggie White left the Philadelphia Eagles to sign with the Green Bay Packers), the legendary dynasties of old (like the Joe Montana-led San Francisco 49ers teams of the 1980's) started to crumble during the 1990s, and eventually the NFL Draft took center stage as a make-or-break moment in each team's future.

Photo courtesy of The Milwaukee Journal

NFL coaches were FORCED to cut short their off-season vacations, and instead were now tasked with recruiting players just like their peers at the college level. 

And Schottey adds: Free Agency certainly changed the NFL forever, but it's also a major factor in where the league is today: America's favorite and most lucrative pastime. 

But for NFL players, Free Agency gives them the FREEDOM to go and play WHEREVER they want to, and to make as much money that they can — while they still have the time (and the body) to do it with.

That's always been the "objective" of NFL Free Agency, and if you consider yourself a fan of the sport of Pro Football and the New Orleans Saints, you have to accept that — even if you don't like the end results (like a player you want to see in the Black and Gold, eventually signing with another team).

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

As they say: it is what it is.

So this morning if you're reading this as a Saints fan and you still feel upset or even mad about the possibility that Ndamukong Suh is going to choose to play for the Jets over the Saints, don't be.

Because while Suh will be making all the money that he wants, he'll still be "stuck" losing games with the Jets in New York — while Drew Brees and the Saints try to win another Super Bowl.......

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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