Friday, February 25, 2005


News: The Patriots release veteran cornerback Ty Law, clearing $12.5 million in cap space.

View: This is one of those things about sports that, as Rick Pitino might say, stinks and sucks and stinks. Ty Law spent 10 seasons with the Patriots, tied the team record with 36 interceptions, psychologically tortured Peyton Manning to our endless delight, had a starring role in two championships and a supporting part in a third, and never failed to play his best under the brightest lights. After his MVP-worthy performance in Super Bowl XXXVI, he even inspired a new term in this sportswriter's Book of Jargon: "Clutch Cornerback." So far, he's the only member of the club.

Law may someday be a Pro Football Hall of Famer - I'd call him borderline at this point - but he's undeniably a Patriots Hall of Famer. In a perfect pigskin universe, he should have spent his whole career with the franchise that drafted him, developed him, and enjoyed so many magical moments with him.

Instead, he's an ex-Patriot and an expatriate, a 15-inch story on the sports wire and uncermonious line in the agate type. And why? For one reason - the usual reason: $$$$$$$.

Law made too much money, was obnoxiously vocal about his unwillingness to sacrifice more than a handful of Benjamins in a contract "restructuring," and the Patriots needed to whack roughly $8 million to get below the salary cap. Someone, or more than someone, had to go; it is no shock that the someone is Law, especially since his agent reportedly requested such a move.

With one vicious slash, the Pats are now under the cap, and they can justify the move further by holding up the shiny new addition to their Lombardi Trophy collection and noting that they won the thing while their 31-year-old cornerback missed the final 12 games of the season with a broken foot. As great as he has been, they will survive and thrive without him. They already have.

Yeah, I understand it why Law is now a former Patriot. I just don't like it. I hate bidding a premature farewell to a player who has been an integral part of the greatest run in NFL history. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the NFL and the Players' Union needs to come up with an addendum to the salary cap, one that makes it easier for a team to retain expensive veteran players that it has drafted and developed. My idea is rudimentary (hell, I am rudimentary) but I think the addendum should be something like this:

Any player who has spent six or more seasons with the franchise that originally drafted him will have just 75 percent of his salary count on the cap.

The Finn Save-The-Veterans Plan is simplistic, but you get the gist. With a rule such as this in place, a fan of, say, the Titans wouldn't have to watch the bloodletting as Derrick Mason and Samari Rolle are released for reasons having nothing to do with performance and everything to do with the bottom line.

There's no doubt Law will get his megamillions elsewhere, and his family (including the cousin with the duffelbag full of goodies, I presume) will not starve. Provided the busted wheel heals properly, he'll be a fine Raider/Raven/Cowboy/Argonaut. You know the Fat Blonde and Plastic Face down there in Dallas already have speed-dialed his agent.

It's just too bad he couldn't have gotten his money here, where his career began and where it should end. After all, it's the place where Ty Law proved time and again just how valuable he could be.