Big contracts given, taken away

The NFL proved once again on Saturday that it is a league with a lot of money, but it's also a young man's game. Aging stars can find big contracts on one coast and animosity on another.

If there was ever any doubt that the NFL is a young man's game in which even the best of players can find themselves in odd situations from one season to the next, those doubts got a double dose of affirmation Saturday.

News broke Saturday on both coasts. Out east, Terrell Owens saw his unemployment come to a quick end when he agreed to a one-year deal with the Buffalo Bills worth a reported $6.5 million. Out west, talks between the San Diego Chargers and franchise star LaDainian Tomlinson broke off, which could lead to his exodus from the team.

Owens was abruptly released by the Cowboys last week, just one year into a three-year contract extension that paid him more than $12 million in 2008. The blogosphere was going wild with speculation as to where Owens could find a landing spot, but few would have anticipated the Bills, who have seemingly been lost in the shuffle in the AFC East. About the only thing that was clear was that from the time he was cut by Dallas to the time he retires, Owens will likely be a gun for hire. His deal with Buffalo offers no promises or guarantees other than him bringing the media circus that constantly follows him to upstate New York.

As for Tomlinson, he entered the 2008 season the topic of debate as to who was the best running back in the NFL? Most observers felt that title was down to L.T. and Adrian Peterson of the Vikings. A little more than six months later, Tomlinson is being asked to restructure his contract to the point that he would be paid less than backup Darren Sproles, whom the Chargers prevented from leaving via free agency by assigning the franchise tag. Tomlinson has balked at taking a pay cut and with the two sides currently at an impasse, it might not be long before Tomlinson finds himself looking for work.

Unlike other major sports, where contracts are guaranteed and players can sign eight- and nine-figure deals knowing they will be paid, the NFL is a sport defined by the phrase "what have you done for me lately?" If we needed any reminding of that, we got a refresher course on Saturday.

SUNDAY NOTES

  • In other ridiculous contract news, former No. 1 overall draft pick QB Alex Smith is less than two weeks away from his team's first offseason minicamp March 20 with San Francisco. If the Niners don't cut him or get him to restructure his deal, he may be banned from the team facilities. If he does take part in practice, the 49ers will be subject to having his 2009 salary of $9.625 million count against the '09 salary cap.

  • On the NFL's official website, they are running an ongoing blog of the USO Tour that includes Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. Allen had a good laugh with Corporal Steven Glenn of Brooklyn Center, who brought up Allen chasing Lions QB Dan Orlovsky out of the end zone in the Vikings' win over the Lions at the Metrodome. Allen is in Iraq bringing smiles to the faces of U.S. troops fighting there. The blog has been up and running for three days and will continue for the rest of the tour.

  • Word out of New Orleans is that the Saints are weighing the options between signing Darren Sharper or Gerald Sensabaugh of the Jaguars. A decision is expected within the next few days.

  • Ten days into free agency, the Vikings are one of the few teams not to sign a free agent from another team. To date, they have traded for Sage Rosenfels and their only free agent signings have been to re-sign Jim Kleinsasser and Heath Farwell.

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