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Why There Are No Disadvantages to Steelers Transitioning Max Starks

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A real quick (not likely) follow-up thought before what I expect to be a fun, vibrant day of discussion tomorrow about the unexpected decision to place the transition tag on reserve OT Max Starks. You can read about the details that are provided in the original breaking post below this one, but for now let me just say a couple quick things before calling it a night.

Typically, there are several disadvantages to the transition tag that effect both the individual being transitioned, and the team who decides to do so. The first is that doing so typically hinders the open-market value of the player, meaning that they're restricted from getting max value in their negotiations. Does this apply to Starks? Sure doesn't. It might have in the case of Steve Hutchison, which you can find ample reading material on with a simple internet search. But the reality is that Starks is a back-up. A $6.895 minimum payday in '08 is far more than what he could have envisioned I'd imagine just several weeks ago even. As per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the salary figure in a transition year is now guaranteed as of last year. From '07 moving forward, that sum is entirely guaranteed, meaning Max Starks can rest his head tonight knowing he's at least $6.895 million richer. We may have some decent insights about players from a distance here on BTSC, but the Rooney's, Colbert, and Tomlin are around the players 'round the clock. They must have made a calculated business decision that Starks would interepret this offer as a substantial investment of not just short term money, but also faith, in him. It will be very interesting to see if an agent is able to corrupt Starks into entering a long, stale-mate negotiation process in free agency, or if he will take this impressive sum and earn his impressive keep with little to no prima donna behavior.

The other disadvantage, and it really relates to the first, is that players are often disgruntled when this happens to them. They often feel they're being hamstrung in their earning potential, and in certain instances, that's the case. And when that is the case, players rightfully feel short-changed and used by their current organization. I don't see that coming into play with Starks here in Pittsburgh. I see it as the exact opposite in fact.

Can a back-up really feel slighted by this? Heck, the last player to be transitioned was Steve Hutchison, and there's not a soul on this planet that would aruge that Starks has the credentials or negotiating power as a proven Pro-Bowler like Hutchison. Instead, I see Starks interpreting this move as the utmost demonstration of blind-faith imaginable. I don't see other teams willing to break the bank for him, meaning Starks has one of two options. Go out and perfrom in '08 for nearly $7 mil a year, and hope that your performance earns you at least 10-20 million more in guaranteed money in your next contract. Or, option two, is be a prima donna, hold out, then hope your raw skills, potential, and past accomplishments are enough to make teams overlook your potentially perceived attitdue problems and still give you gobs of money in forthcoming years.

This will be a litmus test of several things: the front-office's ability to conceptualize risk, both in the short term and long run; their ability to understand specific players' psychological outlooks on their self-worth; and finally a test of whether or not Starks is a guy worth investing more than roughly $7 million in. I think it's worth the gamble. At worst we're out close to $7 mil in a year where we have a bit of flexibility cap-wise, even with Big Ben needed to be re-upped. If things break favorably, we have incentivized a potentially solid player into take the next step, while at worst, shoring up a shaky line in the short-run while we build along the line for the future.

After more and more thought, I think Starks will view this development as an opportunity to prove he was worth the hefty price tag when and if he hits the open market again next spring. If he responds in a big, big way this season, he'll have all the leverage in the world to get a longer-term deal with potentially even greater guaranteed money involved. He might even be astute enough to realize that if the Steelers were a strictly business first opeartion, they could have shelled out a mere additional 500k and slapped the franchise tag on Alan Faneca (my rough calculations tell me he could have been retained for at least one more year for around $7.5 million). So Mr. Starks, its' you, not Faneca, that is being called upon to provide some stability in what otherwise might have been a (pardon the pun) transition year for the Steelers along the offensive line. There are of course other factors as to why the front-office choose to take this route instead of the franchise tag route with Faneca, as was discussed in previous comment threads on Wednesday, but still, it's still a tremendous show of support by the Rooneys and Kevin Colbert towards Starks. Let's see how he responds, provided that other teams don't crash the party by swooping in and offering, unmatchable offers in a contract to Starks, commonly reffered to as 'poison pills' (again, explained in the post below) things that might lure him away from Pittsburgh. Frankly though, this scenario is unlikely. Super Bowl ring or not, he's still a reserve. You pull strings to land Steve Hutchison. Perhaps I'm being naive, but I don't see that happening with a guy who was beaten out for his starting job by a 2nd year player from Hofstra.

At the very worst, he's earning more in '08 than he otherwise would. If he's a competitor, he'll respond. Let's sure hope so.

Aren't the Steelers' offseasons supposed to be boring, at least those that don't involve motorcycle accidents to your franchise QB??

PS. It sure makes it easy to continue plodding on in this labor of love when you friends pick up breaking news before nfl.com and espn.com

I go take an exam in a computer programming night class that I'm taking for fun, only to come home after dinner to see what you rapscallions have been up to. Love it and love you all. Keep it up, the fun's just beginning for us this year, and for years to come.