The start of free agency saw 49ers safety Donte Whitner quickly agree to a four year deal with the Cleveland Browns. People here at Niners Nation were fairly understanding of the deal. It's his hometown team, so there's that. But additionally, the deal is reportedly worth $7 million a year, while Matt Maiocco tweeted the 49ers were not prepared to go higher than $4 million a year.
In doing this deal, Whitner decreases his chance at a Super Bowl, but he gets to go back home, and make a bunch of money in the process. Some people were quick to bash him for not wanting to take less money to win a championship. It's easy to say someone should take less money, potentially a lot less in this case, but when it's your butt on the line, it's not quite that simple. One could argue he's already made plenty of money, but he has a chance to set up his family for generations to come. Additionally, when he's getting old and potentially dealing with a host of medical maladies, every penny could help. Hopefully that doesn't become an issue, but it's something to keep in mind.
All of this is to say, I really can't blame a player for taking more money elsewhere. And if it's a chance to play at home and get right there to potentially help his community, I have even less of an issue. The NFL is a tough game, and while owners might care about you while you're on the team, for many (not all), once you are no longer of use to them, they can discard you in a second. Eddie DeBartolo was different in that regard with his ex-49ers, but my gut tells me he is more of an exception than the rule.
I bring this up because Darren Sproles is in the midst of a tough situation with the New Orleans Saints. It sounds like he was told he was going to be released, so he could get into free agency and find a good deal for himself. Now, he sees this:
WOW! "@ESPNNFL: THIS JUST IN: Saints now plan to trade RB Darren Sproles due to heavy interest. He will not be released.— Darren Sproles (@DarrenSproles) March 11, 2014
The stuff u find out on twitter— Darren Sproles (@DarrenSproles) March 11, 2014
This reads to me like the Saints had not yet informed Sproles about this decision. Maybe they planned to but word leaked out early, but as soon as you know this kind of information, shouldn't you tell the player? The Saints are entitled to do what they want as far as releasing or trading him, but to keep him in the dark on this situation is not how you treat people.
Too many times we see front offices treat a player like a piece of property to be discarded when they see fit. It's easy to overlook this because these players can earn millions of dollars a year. I understand why some might not care how they are treated. Personally, no matter what a person is making, they deserve a little bit of common decency.
The 49ers have let players walk in free agency with limited or no offers, and that can leave a salty taste in a player's mouth. But that has more to do with rejection. In Sproles' case, his future is basically being treated like that of a player on your fantasy football roster. It seems fun in theory, but in reality, you're screwing with someone's life and livelihood. It would seem Sproles deserves better. We don't know the full situation, but given what we know about the non-guaranteed contracts, and the way some players get treated on the back end of their career, pardon me if I assume the worst about the Saints.