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Patrick Willis, Jahri Evans and the Contract Push in Football

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In Baseball Between the Numbers, Dayn Perry wrote:

According to this table, players: (1) perform better in their walk years, (2) do so at an age that doesn't lend itself to peaking, and (3) perform better in their walk years than they do in their pre- or postwalk seasons.

Ah, the language of information.

I don't know of a similar study done for football. It would be harder as all attempts to quantify individual performance in football are harder. It also might be more significant, because football is more physically intense, demanding and punishing than baseball. We rag on Matt Hasselbeck and his deteriorating tools, but Hasselbeck stands out by contrast. Matt strives to be in excellent shape and is, just not relative to the league. He's not Ken Griffey, Jr. He's not battling a pop addiction that's straining his uniform.

Yesterday, Patrick Willis signed a $50 million extension. Today, Jahri Evans signed a $56.7 million extension. I'm ambivalent about the so called "contract push." On the one hand, I don't like to question the desire of strangers. On the other, it seems like denying human nature to suggest athletes are immune to something that would seemingly affect anyone. Some players are dynamos that will do anything for greatness irrespective of money, but others take off plays even within the game itself.

It's obvious desire matters, but less obvious if the push for a first big contract creates or supplements desire. Or, conversely, if getting paid lessens desire. Or, even, if the athlete feels pressure to live up to the contract and so tries even harder. If I were a semi-wealthy professional athlete in a physically grueling sport, the promise of financial security for the rest of my life could provide dangerous perspective. It's not like Willis is swinging a bat. He is initiating auto accidents on the gridiron. Even the Owen Schmitts of the world must occasionally step back and consider the trauma they volunteer for.

What do you think?