Kevin C. Cox
Fact: if there were a lifetime movie about Stephen Nicholas' life, it'd make me cry
Judging by the lukewarm response to my post about renegotiating Tyson Clabo's contract, I'm guessing some of you are somewhat skeptical about this idea. I respect that. But if you're skeptical, I'd like to introduce to my good friend. His name is Reality. He sucks at life.
While I'd love to bathe myself in Arthur Blank's magical pot of gold, I know I can't. Because it doesn't exist. The salary cap isn't going anywhere, it just isn't. Mr. Blank can't just throw money at this team ad nauseum, even if he wants to. There are limits. Renegotiation happens. It's part of this league. It will happen this off-season; the question is not if, it's when.
So since someone is likely to renegotiate, we at the Falcoholic feel it's necessary to opine endlessly about who those/that player(s) will be. And that's what y'all come here for, mindless opining and such.
We all love Stephen Nicholas. We're all familiar with his story, and it tugs at the heart strings. But this is a business. So let's talk business.
Nicholas is a good linebacker. He's not great, he's good. There's a difference. He signed a five year, $17.5 million extension before the 2011 season. He made $1.5 million in base salary this year. He's due for considerable raises in 2013, 2014, and 2015.
In 2012, Nicholas played admirably. His +WPA was 1.33, 35th highest among linebackers. If you're keeping score, that's better than Demarcus Ware, Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, AJ Hawk, Clay Matthews, and many more. But some of the aforementioned linebackers are not as good as they once were. He helped us win games. And I appreciate that. This isn't about loyalty, it's about value. The question isn't what we owe him. He isn't a scholarship player. If you ascribe to that logic, then let's just let Michael Turner play out his contract. Sure, he butt is the size of Delaware, but who cares?! It's all about loyalty!
To be frank, I was excited to see Nicholas play so well. It left me downright giddy at times. Imagine Dave when Milwaukee's Best goes on sale, then multiply that times five. Why? Because of 2011. His injury-shortened 2011 had me worried. But he rebounded in decisive fashion. He posted a career high in tackles and passes defensed. He also had 2 sacks. Hooray!
Keep in mind, Nicholas is only 29. He's in his prime. I'm thinking we can afford to give him an extra year (in addition to the three years remaining on his current contract), in exchange for a discounted 2013/14. He can arguably play out his career as a Falcon, and we free up some salary cap space.
Maybe that's not the right call, but maybe it is. We hung with him despite a disappointing 2011. Many of you suggested cutting him last off-season. On some level, he owes us. If we had cut him, there's no telling how his 2012 would have played out. To that effect, I think he enjoys playing in Atlanta. I'd imagine he wants this team to improve. It isn't unheard of for a player to renegotiate to help his team get over that hump. He may be willing to "take one for the team," so to speak.