Ron Cook: Faneca is taking care of business -- as usual
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Don't worry about All-Pro guard Alan Faneca missing the Steelers' voluntary offseason workouts. Please repeat after me: They are voluntary, and this is the offseason. Big Al will be ready to go in July. He's always ready to go.
You want something to worry about?
Worry about where Faneca will be for the 2008 season.
I'm thinking the desert with old friends Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm.
It's nothing personal.
It's strictly business.
Don't believe the nonsense that Faneca is mad because the Steelers hired Mike Tomlin as coach. Sure, he opined that he would have preferred the team stay in-house and go for Whisenhunt or Grimm, now the head coach and assistant head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. He's human, isn't he? Who among us likes change? Who isn't more comfortable with what he or she knows?
Don't buy the garbage that Faneca is angry because the Steelers cut Joey Porter. Yes, Porter was extremely popular among his teammates, the emotional leader of a veteran team just a year removed from a Super Bowl. But Faneca, Hines Ward and the other vets who expressed their dismay about Porter's release understand the nature of the salary-cap system. They'll get over their angst. They know there's only so much jack to go around. If Ward, for instance, hadn't asked for so much a few years ago, there might have been enough to keep Porter.
This really is about business.
It's pretty safe to say Faneca wants to be the NFL's highest-paid guard. He has every right to feel that way; he has made six consecutive Pro Bowls. Beyond that, he has been just about the perfect player, a trusted team leader, a captain. He has missed just two games in nine seasons. He has volunteered to play tackle when the Steelers have had injuries, risking his All-Pro and Pro Bowl status. He even has been huge in the community with his charity work.
But it's just as safe to say the Steelers aren't especially interested in meeting Faneca's price. It seems much more likely that they'll pay the really big money to safety Troy Polamalu, who, like Faneca, can become a free agent after the '07 season. It's not because they don't like Faneca as a player. They love him. It's because the market for guards has become obscene.
It was one thing for the Minnesota Vikings to give Steve Hutchinson a seven-year, $49-million deal last year, including $16 million guaranteed. Like Faneca, Hutchinson is an elite player. But this offseason, the Cleveland Browns gave a similar deal to Eric Steinbach, only with more guaranteed money, $17 million. The Buffalo Bills did virtually the same contract with Derrick Dockery and guaranteed $18.5 million. Neither Steinbach nor Dockery has made a Pro Bowl.
The Steelers' philosophy long has been that just because another team is stupid doesn't mean they have to be stupid, too. It's pretty hard to argue with their reasoning or their success. They already have signed free-agent guard/center Sean Mahan -- late of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- as insurance in case Faneca leaves. They'll still make Faneca their best offer on an extension before training camp, but it's hard to believe it will be for what he wants.
If it does come to that, here's hoping Faneca turns down the offer without going through the farce of a training-camp holdout. That's a waste of everyone's time. The Steelers aren't going to blink. They never blink in negotiations. Faneca might hold out, but it's inevitable that he'll come back in the end, play out his contract and then sell himself to the highest bidder.
The Cardinals, for instance.
You don't think maybe there already has been a wink and nod between Whisenhunt, Grimm and Faneca, do you?
I hate being so cynical.
It makes sense that the Cardinals would be interested in Faneca. With Whisenhunt orchestrating the plays and star talent Matt Leinart, Edgerrin James, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin at the skill positions, the team is just a quality lineman or two away from having a terrific offense. Faneca would be a great fit and would be paid accordingly.
It's not because Whisenhunt and Grimm like him so much.
It's strictly business.