Long snappers and money

On Friday, Denver signed Lonie Paxton to be their new long-snapper. Paxton will replace fan-favorite Mike Leach, who held down the position in Denver for seven seasons. Leach had been quite a reliable long-snapper for the Broncos, taking over the duties midway through the 2002 season and playing in 104 consecutive games, racking up 29 special-teams tackles along the way.

Paxton's new deal was reported as a five-year, $5.3 million contract, which averages out to $1.06 million per season. Somehow, this contract has created something of an uproar in some parts. Perhaps folks hear "long-snapper" and $5.3 million and all sorts of alarms go off in their heads. Maybe it was the $1-million signing bonus. First, let's see what people are saying...

Here's what Peter King had to say today...

What is Denver doing? A million a year for a long-snapper? Actually, the Broncos paid Lonie Paxton a million to sign, with a five-year deal averaging $1.06M a year, when they had a perfectly good snapper in house -- the reliable Mike Leach. Every year I see teams bring snappers to training camp, new guys with this same singular skill, and I can't figure for the life of me any good reason to take a spot on your roster for one of these players and pay him a million a year. It's indefensible, illogical.

Brian Howell of the Longmont Times-Call thinks Josh McDaniels is off to a bad start, adding...

McDaniels even signed Lonie Paxton, the Patriots’ long snapper for the past nine years, despite the fact that Denver already has a very good — and less expensive — long snapper (Mike Leach) under contract.

From Bill Williamson's mailbag...

Dave from Philly: Great Job on the blog this year. Quick question - do you think it made sense to for the Broncos to spend money on long-snapper Lonie Paxton when they already had a good long-snapper in Mike Leach? Sure we have salary cap room is but why spend money on a non-need area when there are clearly many other holes to fill like the D line. Your thoughts?

BW: Thanks, Dave. I found it strange as well. Yes, Paxton is good. But Leach was nearly perfect in Denver. It seemed like an unnecessary change.

Well, those aren't exactly rave reviews for a relatively minor transaction. The reaction in Broncos Land has been strongly in the negative, although I won't single anyone out here. Me? I'd just like to make sure everyone's got the facts. But first, take a look at what they're saying back in New England. The Providence Journal wrote this...

Paxton, the longtime Patriot who never botched a snap in his time in New England, signed a reported five-year, $5.3 million deal with Denver. He is now the second-highest paid long snapper in the NFL behind Cleveland’s Ryan Pontbriand.

Here's what one Patriots fan had to say in an email question to the Boston Globe...

Mike, as an aspiring coach, I feel that the greatest loss this offseason is definitely that of long snapper Lonie Paxton. One of the best in the business. I have watched every Pats game over the past 3-plus seasons and never seen him have a bad snap. How are we going to fill that void? 

Edvin, Willimantic, Conn.

Now, about those facts. Keep in mind, here were the minimum salaries for NFL players in 2008, which are based upon league experience: the rookie minimum was $295,000. For second-year players, it was $445,000 and for third-year guys it was $520,000. Players with four- to six-years in got at least $620,000 while seven-year vets got $730,000 or more. Veterans of 10+ years got at least $830,000. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's compare the Paxton's Denver deal to what the NFL's long-snappers pulled down in 2008...

Team

Player

Exp

2008 Salary

Min.

% of Min

CLE

Ryan Pontbriand

6

$4,755,000

$605,000

786%

BAL

Matt Katula

4

$1,375,160

$605,000

227%

DAL

LP Ladouceur

4

$1,326,720

$605,000

219%

TB

Andrew Economos

3

$1,000,760

$520,000

192%

SD

David Binn

15

$1,358,480

$830,000

164%

NYJ

James Dearth

8

$1,086,000

$730,000

149%

ARI

Nathan Hodel

7

$1,059,320

$730,000

145%

DEN

Mike Leach

9

$1,035,880

$730,000

142%

DEN

Paxton's New Deal

10

$1,060,000

$845,000

125%

TEN

Ken Amato

6

$733,980

$605,000

121%

NE

Lonie Paxton

9

$884,200

$730,000

121%

PHI

Jon Dorenbos

6

$709,560

$605,000

117%

MIN

Cullen Loeffler

5

$645,000

$605,000

107%

WAS

Ethan Albright

14

$875,040

$830,000

105%

IND

Justin Snow

9

$740,000

$730,000

101%

NO

Kevin Houser

9

$740,000

$730,000

101%

OAK

Jon Condo

2

$450,880

$445,000

101%

DET

Don Muhlbach

5

$611,240

$605,000

101%

CIN

Brad St. Louis

9

$736,000

$730,000

101%

CHI

Patrick Mannelly

11

$834,680

$830,000

101%

SF

Brian Jennings

9

$731,440

$730,000

100%

CAR

Jason Kyle

14

$831,560

$830,000

100%

SEA

Jeff Robinson

15

$830,000

$830,000

100%

JAC

Joe Zelenka

10

$736,720

$830,000

89%

ATL

Mike Schneck

10

$734,320

$830,000

88%

MIA

John Denney

4

$527,500

$605,000

87%

BUF

Ryan Neill

2

$374,560

$445,000

84%

NYG

Zak DeOssie

2

$373,960

$445,000

84%

STL

Chris Massey

7

$609,800

$730,000

84%

GB

Brett Goode

1

$295,000

$370,000

80%

Salary information from USA Today's online database.

Okay, going across, the first three columns are the team, player's name and his NFL experience, in years. Next is the player's 2008 salary, followed by the minimum salary for his service level. The last column shows the percentage of the minimum salary that each player actually received. Obviously, the row in bold type is the one to focus on - Lonie Paxton's average salary. Now, let me tell you what jumps out at me...

  • Nothing. Okay, maybe not quite nothing. But not a whole lot. Once you know what the minimum salaries are, based upon career length, Paxton's contract doesn't sound the least bit crazy. Most importantly, Paxton will get paid almost exactly what Leach received from Denver in 2008.

  • Where's the raise? In fact, Paxton hardly even got much more of a raise than he was guaranteed - he's entering his 10th season, for which the minimum 2009 salary will be $845,000. In 2008, Paxton made 121% of the minimum. In 2009, he'll get 125%. Big whoop.

  • Ryan Pontbriand made how much?! Pontbriand, the AFC's 2008 Pro Bowl long-snapper, signed a 4-year extension in 2007 and for some reason his 2008 cap number was $4.975 million, after a whopping $8,864,760 in 2007. Beats me, folks...

  • Less experience, less dough. Aside from the lower minimum salary, most of the lesser-paid long-snappers were also the least experienced, which makes complete sense. Salary data wasn't available for Houston's Clark Harris, KC's Thomas Gafford or Pittsburgh's Jared Retkofsky, all of whom were rookies in 2008.

It seems to me that Paxton's deal is pretty normal in the way of long-snappers. Sure, we all love Mike Leach and thought he did a wonderful job as a long-snapper for the Denver Broncos. But really, what's the big deal?

Originally posted at MHR

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

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