Whitlock | Price goes up for Johnson

function PopupPic(sPicURL, sHeight, sWidth) { window.open( "http://media.kansascity.com/static/popup.html?"+sPicURL, "", "resizable=1,HEIGHT=" +sHeight+ ",WIDTH=" +sWidth); }

The record contract the Colts handed defensive end Dwight Freeney late last week is yet another new wrinkle in the Larry Johnson-Chiefs contract saga.
Freeney’s $72 million deal, which includes $30 million in bonuses and $37.5 million over the first three years, raised the roof on all future contract demands across the league.
The Colts treated Freeney, the game’s second-best defensive end after Julius Peppers, like a quarterback. And by doing so, the Colts hammered the point that you can’t compare 2007 contracts by the standards established under the old collective-bargaining agreement.
The franchise-tag value for defensive ends had been around $8.6 million. Once Peppers inks a new deal, an agreement that should surpass Freeney’s, the franchise number for pass rushers will begin to approach $10 million.
My point in bringing this up is it is being made abundantly clear that the deal that LaDainian Tomlinson, the league’s best running back, signed in 2004 is obsolete when talking about Larry Johnson’s value in today’s market.
If the Chargers signed LT today, he would garner a $30 million signing bonus and $36 million over the first three years of the contract.
Under that scenario, what does the game’s second-best running back deserve? Larry and his agent have virtually no choice but to demand $25 million in guarantees.
I still see a trade as a legitimate possibility. The Hunt family has never shown the stomach for reaching into their piggy bank and handing out huge signing bonuses.
The Chiefs still operate like a $10 million bonus is a big deal. Yes, Tony Gonzalez got $18 million in guaranteed money, but only $10 million was in signing bonus. The rest was in guaranteed salary over the first four years of his new deal.
But look at the cash Colts owner Jim Irsay has been tossing around: Peyton Manning received $35 million in guarantees, Marvin Harrison got $23 million, Reggie Wayne took home $13.5 million and now Freeney just cracked $30 million.
There’s a huge difference between paying a guy in salary and paying a guy in guaranteed bonuses. The latter is far more risky and causes an owner to initially dip into his own finances to do it. It’s the difference between cash dollars and salary-cap dollars.
The Hunts will spend their salary-cap dollars, but they’ve been reluctant to stretch the cap by spending large sums of cash in bonuses.
I’m not going to beat up the Hunts or team president/general manager WildCarl Peterson about their frugal spending habits. You could argue the Colts are in a unique situation; they have arguably the league’s best quarterback, pass rusher and wide receiver.
The Chiefs have arguably the league’s best tight end, and they paid him like it. In my opinion, the Chiefs have the league’s best offensive guard, Brian Waters, and WildCarl took complete advantage of Waters in 2006 contract negotiations.
Is it WildCarl’s fault that Waters chose to do his deal without the assistance of an agent? Waters is every bit as good as Minnesota’s Steve Hutchinson, who inked a $49 million deal that included $16 million in bonuses.
Waters received a $4 million roster bonus, relatively modest salaries over the first three years ($585,000, $720,000 and $2.08 million), and roster bonuses in 2007 and 2008 of $3 million and $2.5 million. When you toss in workout bonuses and per-game roster bonuses, Waters received $14.6 million over three years. Hutchinson got $23 million.
Waters signed an extremely Chiefs-friendly agreement. It’s simply not the kind of reward teams generally give proven performers and rock-solid citizens such as Waters — at least not when they retain proper representation.
Again, I’m not trying to beat up Peterson or the Hunts. The Patriots and the Eagles, to name two franchises, have experienced success while gaining a reputation as cheap.
And does declining to give Johnson $20 million-plus in guarantees mean the Chiefs are cheap or does it signify that the organization believes Johnson isn’t worth it? According to my sources, so far, the Chiefs have offered Johnson less guaranteed money than Gonzalez. The Chiefs are allegedly in the $14 million to $15 million range, or about half of what LT would get today.
Is Johnson only half the running back that Tomlinson is? No one would argue that. A trade just might make sense for all parties. Brett Favre would love to have Larry Johnson, and the Packers would properly pay Johnson. The Chiefs could pick up a few draft picks