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SBD/March 12, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and Exec VP & GM Bruce Allen "defiantly vowed to move forward with an offseason plan that is significantly altered by the loss" of $18M of salary cap space for the '13 season, according to Rich Campbell of the WASHINGTON TIMES. Allen, in his first detailed comments about the NFL's penalty for frontloading contracts in the uncapped '10 season, called it a “travesty of fairness.” Meanwhile, Shanahan "expressed frustration but vowed to make the best of the team’s financial limitations." The "weight of the penalty fell on the Redskins earlier" yesterday when they released CB DeAngelo Hall, who coaches "regarded as their best cornerback." Shanahan said that releasing Hall "saved the Redskins" $8M in '13 salary cap space, and got the club about $1M "under the cap" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/12). Allen said, "We were never warned that they were going to come back two years later and punish us." He added that the team is "not considering a lawsuit, but he declined to say what other options the team might pursue" (AP, 3/11). In DC, Mark Maske notes Allen "declined to specify how he thinks the Redskins might reclaim some of the salary cap space." Allen said the team had options and, “We’re just going to continue. We would like to know the truth and we’ll find it" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/12).
HEY, BIG SPENDER: In Miami, Adam Beasley writes for the "third consecutive offseason, the Dolphins are buyers." They "swung and missed the past two years." But this March, there is "hope ... that the Dolphins brain trust will get it right." The Dolphins have been "active in the three-day negotiating window with other teams’ free agents and their own." Talks this afternoon will "become real" with free agent WR Mike Wallace in what could be "a defining week" for Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland (MIAMI HERALD, 3/12). In Ft. Lauderdale, Omar Kelly notes whether the Dolphins can land Wallace "depends on how much every team is offering the 26-year-old, and which teams are involved in the bidding" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/12). Kelly, examining the role of the Dolphins ownership, writes under the header, "Steve Ross Can't Afford To Swing And Miss Again This Dolphins' Offseason." Kelly: "Fool Ross once and shame on the NFL. Fool Ross twice and shame on him. Fool him a third time ... and it is safe to conclude Ross and the people running his organization are imbeciles." He "swings for the fences, and that's admirable," but every agent "knows it, which makes him a target to be hustled and conned" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/12).
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS: Giants President & CEO John Mara yesterday acknowledged that his team is "taking a risk by giving restricted free agent" WR Victor Cruz a first-round tender worth $2.88M. In New Jersey, Art Stapleton writes there will be "continued speculation regarding Cruz’s change in representation as to whether" CAA's Tom Condon’s "presence will be a positive sign for a future with the Giants." That also "could be premature, considering Condon is one of the league’s top agents and likely will entertain other deals." Mara said that the Giants "might not be willing or able to give him what the market decides" (Bergen RECORD, 3/12). CBSSPORTS.com's Jason La Canfora cited sources as saying that the Patriots "would make a run at Cruz, but that was prior to Cruz changing agents recently and going" with Condon, who the Patriots "generally don't do business with" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/11).
The Seahawks are a franchise that has "rapidly become known for its fearless, unconventional thinking on personnel matters," and the trade yesterday for Vikings WR Percy Harvin is "another bold step," according to Don Banks of SI.com. It is one that "again reinforces the perception that Seattle is comfortable operating outside the box and rapidly gaining confidence in its methods." The Seahawks started this offseason "with plenty of salary cap room and 10 draft choices, second most" in the NFL, so they "didn't wipe out their 2013 draft class" with yesterday's move. The Seahawks are "building something, and they've earned the benefit of the doubt" (SI.com, 3/11). ESPN.com's Ashley Fox wrote Seahawks GM John Schneider "sent a message to the conference and the entire league that the Seahawks are going to be major players in 2013, no matter what else transpires once free agency starts" this afternoon. Seattle has "quietly become a safe landing spot for players and a favorite destination." The stadium and "game-day atmosphere help" (ESPN.com, 3/11). In Seattle, Danny O'Neil writes this trade was "a bombshell, and the single biggest bet the Seahawks have made under" Schneider. It is a move that was "typical for this team only because it was so atypical." Most expected a "largely silent offseason for these Seahawks" (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/12). CBSSPORTS.com's Jason La Canfora on Twitter wrote, "For my money, Seattle GM Schneider has been best in the biz the past 3 yrs -- bold and aggressive and had reaped great value in deals" (TWITTER.com, 3/11).
WILD, WILD WEST: CBSSPORTS.com's Clark Judge wrote what once was a "not-so-friendly rivalry" between the Seahawks and 49ers has "turned into something more like an arms race, with the Seahawks making the first bold move" by adding Harvin. 49ers co-Owner John York said, "I guess we won't be hearing about the 'crummy NFC West' anymore" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/11). FOXSPORTS.com's Jen Floyd Engel wrote yesterday's trade "feels like a tipping point, a moment we will look back to in a couple of years as when Super Bowls were determined in Pacific Standard Time in ugly, nasty games between" the 49ers and Seahawks. What seems to be taking place between these two teams is "the NFL's version of Moneyball, the realization that rivals also can be engaged in March with free agency and April with the draft." The surest way to "get in cap and long-term trouble in this league is trying to keep the band together -- after Super Bowls and certainly after 8-8 seasons." The best teams are "always churning their roster," and Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome "certainly has shown himself to be the best in the league at assembling a Super Bowl roster" (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/11).
The Yankees by moving under the $189M MLB luxury tax threshold would see their current luxury-tax payments “plummet to zero and work up from there,” according to a front-page piece by David Waldstein of the N.Y. TIMES. The franchise also would “become eligible for financial reimbursements worth millions of dollars.” The new, “restrained” strategy is “not a reflection of the team’s financial health.” Yankees Managing General Partner & co-Chair Hal Steinbrenner “seems intent on establishing a certain austerity because it makes financial sense to him.” The Yankees, always the “aristocrats of baseball,” now are “behaving as if they are decidedly middle-class.” The Yankees currently have a “luxury tax rate of 50 percent, meaning that for every dollar they spend over the 2013 payroll threshold” of $178M, they “must pay 50 cents” to MLB. The team “paid out” $19M in ’12, and the figure “could be” $15M in ’13. But if the Yankees “can get below the threshold for 2014, they will pay no luxury tax.” If they then exceed the $189M mark in ‘15, the luxury-tax rate “will still be a more friendly 17.5 percent, not the 50 percent they are paying now.” In addition, the new agreement also “includes a provision whereby high-income teams like the Yankees that annually make payments into a separate revenue-sharing pool will receive a substantial rebate from that pool if they keep the payroll” under $189M in ‘14. Teams that have contributed the most to the revenue-sharing pool over the years “stand to get the most money back.” It was originally thought the Yankees “could get back as much as” $40M in ’14, but some estimates are that figure “will be a more modest” $10-11M (N.Y. TIMES, 3/12).
Turnouts for Hurricanes games at PNC Arena this season "have been large, the fans loud and enthusiastic," according to Chip Alexander of the Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER. There have been seven sellouts in the first 12 home games. The Hurricanes are "averaging 17,971 fans a game, 15th-best in the 30-team NHL." That is 96.2% of the arena's "capacity of 18,680 for hockey." The Hurricanes "had an average of 16,042 last season, with nine sellouts in 41 games." The 12% "increase in attendance per game this year is among the best in the Eastern Conference and helps fuel" the NHL's 2% overall increase. Hurricanes President & GM Jim Rutherford said, "We're pleased we've been able to attract good crowds on the weeknights where in the past we've had some trouble putting people in the building. Our group ticket sales are at an all-time high. All are positive signs." When the NHL lockout ended in early January, Rutherford said that the team "had lost about" 7% of its season-ticket base due to the labor dispute. Rutherford on Friday said that he "misspoke and that the actual loss was" about 5%. He said that the team has "more than recouped the loss from the lockout and that season ticket sales were up" about 2%. The Hurricanes "do not release season-ticket numbers but their base is believed to be about 10,000 to 11,000." The team said that another factor in the increased attendance is the "promotions used to lure back fans." They include offering 50% off merchandise in their in-arena store, The Eye, for two weeks. An official NHL jersey "usually sells for $124.99." Opening night was a sellout, and Hurricanes VP/Marketing Doug Warf said it "created a buzz." He added that was followed by "Family Night" and "College Night" promotions. Warf said that the "last five games in April are trending toward sellouts, 'and that's six weeks out''' (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 3/9).
MLS DC United CMO Doug Hicks said that the club's front-office initiatives aimed at reversing a downward trend in attendance in recent years "appear to be working" as full season ticket sales are up 21% and season packages have risen 27%, according to Steven Goff of the WASHINGTON POST. But the club, which "once enjoyed the most reliable support in MLS," lsat year saw attendance figures "continue to tumble." DC United’s home average over the last five years has "plummeted" 34% to an "all-time low" of 13,846 last season. The club had 17,072 fans attend its home opener Saturday against Real Salt Lake. However, the team's recent uptick is "an encouraging sign." DC United's focus this season "was on improving season ticket orders." Hicks said, "Our base of ticket buyers wasn’t where it needed to be. Our starting point was so low, we were racing against time every Saturday night to build a crowd." DC United officials "wouldn’t reveal the number of full-season ticket equivalents." However, a source said that the team "sold 5,200 packages in 2011 and 4,300 last year." To improve season-ticket sales, the club "offered a dedicated entry gate and access to a private club, which will remain open after the game." The team also has "hired an independent advertising agency for the first time in many years" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/9).
FOOTIE FORECASTER: In DC, Dan Steinberg reported DC United "arranged a whole bunch of local media appearances for its players and coach" to "help promote" Saturday's game. One was a "morning TV gimmick," in which F Chris Pontius would "deliver the weather on the Fox 5 morning show, in place of regular meteorologist Tucker Barnes." Much of the forecast was "uneventful, until Pontius turned his forecasting eye further north." He said, "New York is still getting hit with snow, and I like that, because that means the Red Bulls are being hit with some snow right now." The seven-day outlook "got a little rocky, due to positioning issues." Barnes from off camera called, "Hey hey you're in the way of Friday there" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 3/8).
SOUNDING OFF: In Seattle, Joshua Mayers noted the MLS Sounders for their CONCACAF Champions League game against Liga MX club Tigres UANL had “ticket sales at 17,600,” and drew a lower attendance for “the first time in a two-game series.” Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer said, “I always wish that our Champions League games would draw bigger crowds, but I also know that we’re up against the realities of a general sports fan for whom Champions League is foreign.” He added, “It’s just going to take time. We could probably do a better job of continuing to drive the message in the marketplace.” Meanwhile, Hanauer said of the team taking charter flights, “Charters are expensive. There’s no two ways about it. It’s $100,000 to $200,000 every time you do it, and there are realities to the economics to our league. So we make a value judgment each time” (SEATTLETIMES.com, 3/11).
Hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, who is leading the effort to bring the Sonics back to Seattle by relocating the NBA Kings, yesterday announced he is “launching a priority waitlist for future tickets for a team,” according to Bob Condotta of the SEATTLE TIMES. The waitlist “will go live on SonicsArena.com at 10 a.m. Thursday.” While it was not acknowledged by Hansen, it is "possible the move was timed to counter what has been a public-relations barrage from Sacramento forces in recent weeks aimed at keeping the Kings.” Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has “assembled an ownership group to make an alternate offer to buy the team and build a new arena.” Johnson's hope is “the package will be enough to compel the NBA to turn down the Seattle offer and keep the team in Sacramento” (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/12).
Madison Square Garden announced that Knicks season-ticket prices for '13-14 will increase an average of 6.4% and the NHL Rangers’ will increase an average of 4%. Knicks and Rangers season tickets will be offered at 26 different price points for each team (MSG). In N.Y., Ken Belson noted MSG has spent “nearly $1 billion to refurbish the building,” and the company has “raised ticket prices in recent years to recoup that investment.” This season, Knicks season tickets “rose 4.9 percent and Rangers season tickets increased 9.5 percent.” That followed “even larger price increases the year before” (NYTIMES.com, 3/11).
WORK IN PROGRESS: NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the Coyotes ownership situation remains "a work in progress" after prospective buyer Greg Jamison was "unable to close his transaction to purchase the Coyotes before the time window he had negotiated" with the City of Glendale expired last month. Daly said, "We're in a period where there is a series of potentially interested investors who are doing their due diligence on a very expedited basis. Some discussions have been had with the new city council, with the mayor. We hope we can bring this all together fairly quickly, but I'm not making any predictions in that regard" (NHL.com, 3/9).
BLAZING A TRAIL: In Portland, Allan Brettman wrote Trail Blazers President & CEO Chris McGowan has “set a business course he believes will emphasize customer sales and service like never before." He also “plans an overhaul of the team's social media, digital advertising and fan interaction.” McGowan said, "The culture will be different with me as opposed to the culture that I inherited.” The Blazers had “165 full-time employees when McGowan first walked in the door.” Today the team has 152, "a 7.8 percent staff reduction.” Ticket prices will “increase 2.5 percent for 2013-14 season, the first increase since the 2009-10 season.” But McGowan “plans to retain the fan loyalty perks program started in 2005 that incrementally awards season ticket holders with seniority-based ticket price reductions” (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/10).