What happened to "you get what you pay for"?

Earlier this season, I ran a few articles discussing the production of our starting wide receivers, Michael Clayton and Antonio Bryant relative to their salary.  Through the first few games, it appeared the Bucs had significantly overpaid both guys, as their production was lagging behind a full year's worth of a number two receiver.  With the season completed, and with Bryant gone, I though we could take a quick look at one of our favorite punching bags, Michael Clayton.  This isn't just an excuse to bash him, but more a look at how the Buc's dollars are being spent.  Afterall, we hear terms such as "cheap", "thrifty", and "frugal" being thrown around, but then we are expected to laud the organization for throwing handfuls of cash at undeserving targets. 

We've all been part of the argument, you know, the argument over whether the Glazers are cheap or not.  They have spent money in the past, and even in 2009.  But it's how we are spending that money that makes me worry.  I'd rather be the cheapest team in the league than dispense huge contracts to lackluster targets.   Case and point.  Michael Clayton.

Before he signed his monster second deal, lets look at his career stats.  I've also included career totals, averages, last 3 year average and average season without 2004 (rookie year).

Year Games Rec Yards TD YPC
2009 13 16 230 1 14.38
2008 15 38 484 1 12.74
2007 14 22 301 0 13.68
2006 12 33 356 1 10.79
2005 14 32 372 0 11.63
2004 16 80 1193 7 14.91
Total 84 221 2936 10 13.29
Career Avg 14 36.83 489.33 1.67 2.21
Last 3 Avg 14 25.33 338.33 0.67 13.36
w/o 2004 13.6 28.2 348.6 0.6 12.36

The table tells us nothing we don't already know.  He burst onto the scene in 2004, had us all scrambling to buy #80 jerseys, ready for a Hall of Fame career, and then he produced numbers that would make most running backs look like receiving threats.  An honest bit of feedback here.  I literally laughed when I saw his numbers in black and white.  I don't know if I blocked them out or what, but this was even worse than I thought.

So back to our argument at hand.  The Bucs, after seeing Clayton put up years including 33,2, and 38 catches for a total yardage of roughly 1,000 (over 3 years), we decided to reward him and outbid ourselves to the tune of a 5 years, $24 million with $10.5 million guaranteed.  That equates into a salary of $13.5 million, or roughly (if each year were the same salary) $2.7 million a year in salary and guarantees of (again, over the life of the deal) $2.1 million per year for a total annual pay of approximately $4.8 million dollars. 

I'll give you a second to take that paragraph in again.

Back?  Now that you've presumably snapped back to reality, what does it all mean?  Well, to get an idea, lets take his 2009 numbers and put them into context.  In terms of yards (230), he is lumped in with guys like Legedu Naanee (242), and Keenan Burton (253) while having less yards than running backs, Jason Snelling, Rock Cartwright, and Julius Jones.  When looking at receptions (16), he was in line with Marty Booker and Deon Butler.  And in the ever popular touchdown category, he was behind just about anyone with a pulse like Eric Weems.  We could compare players all day long, but I'll refrain for the sake of my sanity. 

So with his monster season of 15 catches for 230 yards and 1 TD, what did we pay him for each catch, yard and TD?  This again assumes that each year of salary was equal.

Per catch - $300,000

Per yard - $20,869

per TD - $4.7 million

A quick fun fact.  Clayton's last 3 seasons combined, he would have been 24th in the league in yards for 2009.  That's 3 years of Clayton against 1 year of everyone else and he still barely cracks the top 25. 

So now that we've summed up Clayton's (non) contribution to the team, lets make this more of a team-centric exercise.  Back to the spending argument.  I don't think any Bucs fan is advocating blowing cash on players who can't play or don't deserve it.  But if we truly are trying to build a team, watch the cash flow and create a winner, what in the heck was the front office thinking when they doled out this contract?  Again, I'd rather be stingy misers who rightfully are called cheap because they refuse to spend on everyonethan spend this kind of cash on under performers. 

We have the examples of the Winslow deal (so far so good), the attempted wooing of Haynesworth, and the Ward signing (so far not so good) to appease the "we do spend" crowd.  We have the inability to sign anyone of note thus far in 2010, and the horrific Clayton signing, as well as Ward to give fodder to the "we don't spend" or "we don't know how to spend" crowd.

I'll leave you with this thought.  As we continue into the offseason and draft portions of the year, it has become painfully obvious that we just flat out refuse to spend in free agency.  I won't debate the merits with anyone as this seems to be a front office philosophy, but before we defend the FO and their frugal ways by touting the examples I laid out, are we even reasonable sure that if the FO decided to spend money that we would feel comfortable with how they do it?  All I have to do is point towards #80 and I think I could rest my case.

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