Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Don't Hate the Player

Most Saints fans have expressed kind words for departing linebacker Scott Fujita, who as an unrestricted free agent signed a lucrative contract with the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

But there are quite a few on the blogosphere and on the sports talk realm that can’t fathom why Fujita would turn his back on the community he promoted so much so soon after the start of free agency.

After all, didn’t Fujita say time and time again he wanted to stay “home”?

I for one take him at his word with good reasons, as Fujita has been a consistent booster for his adopted city since he joined the team. (See Yahoo Sports Shutdown Corner’s article on Fujita’s latest act of philanthropy.)

Fujita’s first service to the organization was his decision to relocate to the storm-ravaged town. On March 14, 2006 Fujita became the first free agent to sign with the 2006 Saints.

Now let me put this in perspective: this was seven months removed from Hurricane Katrina when much of New Orleans was littered with FEMA trailers and blue tarp roofs, a time when the Crescent City looked more like a part of Haiti than the United States.

A familiar face recruited Fujita, ex-Dallas Cowboys assistant coach Sean Payton who had just assumed the reins of the Saints.

Fujita would be the first brick in the franchise’s rebuilding process that was simultaneously being carried out as the New Orleans area was being rebuilt. The cornerstone of the new New Orleans Saints, quarterback Drew Brees, officially joined the team two days later.

For making that first leap into the drowned city, Fujita had my respect.

The Berkeley grad’s leftist political talk, not so much, though it is refreshing when a professional athlete goes beyond bumper-sticker slogans in discussing civic affairs even if I find the substance disagreeable.

Maybe Fujita will do the Democratic Party a service and knock out Dennis Kucinich when the bleeding-heart linebacker’s gridiron days come to a close. Talk about contrasting television images.

But as usual I digress.

It was obvious the Saints had little interest in retaining Fujita as a starter except as a worst-case scenario. With no salary cap and no penalties for offering the ufa a contract, the Saints decision to let Fujita “test the waters” of free agency was their way of saying “happy trails”.

With the Saints looking at keeping him at a bargain and his starting position likely endangered due to his declining production and his age, why should Fujita turn down millions of dollars of guaranteed money from a team who covets him?

To have passed on Cleveland’s early offer would not have been an act of dedication but insanity.

Fujita made the right move. Right for his career, right for his family and dare I say, right for the Saints. I’ll get to that part at the end.

Call it greed. Call it capitalism. Call it whatever you want. I call it a win-win.

By signing such a large contract with the Browns, the player the Saints did not want did his ex-team a huge favor when taking into consideration the “Rule of Four”.

Severely limited in their ability to pick up quality unrestricted free agents, Fujita’s departure allows the Saints to not only bring in someone whose contract with his team ran its course, but by signing for ton of money, the Black and Gold can now afford under the restrictions to pay a quality ufa.

So on behalf of Who Dats in the know, 3,000,000 base and 500,000 bonus “thank yous” for everything you did for team and the New Orleans area and for getting the Browns to pay you enough so the Saints can replace or upgrade the position you left behind.
At least on-field.

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