Don\’t Throw Rocks At Willie Colon For Not Taking A Pay-cut

It was reported on Thursday by Jason La Canfora that Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Willie Colon has said he is not willing to take a pay-cut after missing all but one game over the last two seasons due to injuries. Before you go throwing rocks at Colon for not wanting to take that pay-cut, I wanted to paint the back story so you can see where he is coming from.

Colon was drafted by the Steelers in the 4th round of the 2006 NFL draft out of Hostra and was signed to a three-year, $1.3635 million contract, that included a $283,500 signing bonus and three years of league minimum base salaries. Those base salaries were $275,000, $360,000 and $445,000 and only the signing bonus and the first year base really were guaranteed. It should be noted that Colon was the second league wide draft pick out of 255 picks that year to sign a contract with the Houston Texans top overall pick Mario Williams being the other.

During his rookie season Colon was inactive for the first 14 games and then made his first two career starts at right tackle in the final two games after Max Starks went down with a knee injury. In his second season Colon started all 16 games at right tackle as well as the playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He did however have 11 penalties called on him that year that included 5 false starts and 5 holding calls. In his 3rd year in the league Colon started all 16 regular-season games once again at right tackle as well as all three postseason games. Once again the big knock on him was the penalties as he was flagged 13 times in total during the regular season. Outside of the penalties though Colon had a good season and rankled as the 7th best right tackle in the league in 2008 according to Pro Football Focus. He was far from a Pro Bowler, but very consistent and dependable.

After the 2008 season Colon was a restricted free agent and the Steelers thought enough of him to place a first round tender of $2.198 million on him, as they were too concerned another team would have signed him away had the only gave him an original round tender. The low round tender amount at that time was $1.01 million. The good news for Colon was that he had one more year guaranteed with the possibility of hitting the market as an unrestricted free agent after the 2009 season should he put together another good season like he had in 2008. The bad news was that he still didn\’t have the huge payday yet and that there was uncertainty looming as far as free agency went in regards to the CBA.

Colon went on to start all 16 regular season games again at right tackle in 2009 and played every offensive snap as well. He got control of his penalties in addition as he was flagged just 7 times total. 4 times for holding and 3 times for false starts. He allowed just 6 sacks in total and was ranked as the top right tackle in the league according to PFF and the 3rd best tackle overall. Over the course of 3 years as a starter, Colon did not miss a game due to injury. Things were looking good for Colon to finally hit the big payday that every NFL player dreams of, but that was not to happen.

Because there was not a new CBA in place, the league went to an uncapped season in 2010 and the free agency rules were changed because of that. Colon, who was scheduled to be unrestricted, instead was termed a restricted free agent and basically had the proverbial rug ripped out from underneath him. As a restricted free agent the Steelers were allowed to once again tender Colon at the first round level that carried a price tag of only $2.521. For comparison sake the franchise tag on offensive linemen that year was $10.731 million and Colon was not alone as several tackles were screwed out of free agency that year. As a result you had veteran tackles like Chad Clifton getting a three-year, $19.58 million contract from the Green Bay Packers that included $7.5 million in guaranteed money. Had Colon instead been an unrestricted free agent in 2010, there is no doubt in my mind that he would of hit a huge payday, or at the very least he would have had been hit with the franchise tag and likely would have gotten a big payday from the Steelers in the process.

Colon went about his business though as he always had in the past an unfortunately suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon doing agility drills while working out in Pittsburgh in late June. The injury required surgery and Colon was lost for the season as a result. A tough blow for a player that worked so hard to get where he was at.

After recovering from surgery during the 2010 season, Colon was finally ready to become an unrestricted free agent following the lockout. His market value had decreased greatly because of the lost season and the Steelers were prepared to let Colon shop himself around, but the Steelers signed him to a five-year, $29 million contract that included a $6 million signing bonus just hours before the free agency period began Colon reportedly turned down an extra $3 million from the Chicago Bears because he wanted to stay in Pittsburgh so bad.

Fast forward now to week 1 of the 2011 season and Colon tore his right triceps muscle against the Baltimore Ravens. He did not come out of the game after suffering the injury and played all 64 snaps in the blowout loss. He of course needed surgery to repair the injury and was lost for the season once again.

Colon never asked to be injured. All he was looking for was a big payday and has had a string of bad luck due to timing with the CBA as well as with injuries. It should also be noted that Colon cares for his mother who suffers from Lupus, a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorder that can attack any organ in the body. He is very active in the Pittsburgh community with his support of the Lupus Foundation and chairs a yearly walk for the disease in addition.

Colon finally got somewhat of a payday prior to the start of the 2011 season and you can see why he would turn down a pay cut after all he has been through. If you want to criticize his play over the years, that is fine. If you want to criticize him for not taking a pay cut, at least you now have the full back story. If you insist on throwing rocks at anyone, throw them at the Steelers. After all they are the ones that gave him the contract.

  • Seagledad05

    So this article is stating we pay players for what they have done in the past? WRONG, 2 years and no production, but no paycut? U try taking 2 years off your job and no paycut, much less still having a job. Its not like he was a Joe Thomas or anything, cut his ass. We let players like John Jackson, Wayne Gandy, Alan Faneca go but keep this guy who is nothing more than a workers comp nightmare since getting paid. Ok, ok, you get a pass, re-write this stupid article and use some sense this time, what are you a relative to him?

  • SteelersDepot

    Then why give him the big deal prior to this season. The Steelers are the ones you should be mad at it.Works both ways…

  • johnstown jim

    hey dave, glad you feel that way. how about you pay me 500 bucks a month to care for your lawn and you can just mail the check every month and i will see you in 2014.

  • Paul

    Moronic response, cut his ass? saves a whopping 900 grand off salary cap. Then they have to sign someone to take his place.

  • SteelersDepot

    You see though, I would never enter into that contract.

  • SteelersDepot

    Keep it clean folks. Go to the other places to do the name calling. State your peace and keep the line moving.

  • kevin

    Colon was injured playing football. I am betting that you would not turn down workers compensation if you were injured on the job.

  • William

    Look people, The Steelers found a rough diamond in the fourth round those many years ago. After several years of polishing this fourth rounder becomes the best tackle in the league? The Steelers believed in this guy, and he showed loyality to the organization by basically throwing 3 mil in the toilet to stay in Pit. He didn’t exactly ask to be injured, it just happened. If the Steelers still believe in him, why would anyone else question that?

  • kevin

    But if you got injured on your job, I am sure you would expect to be paid. I guess Colon is different because he makes more money. These statements by fans are sickening in the lack of integrity that is displayed. If the Steelers want to cut him, that is part of the system. Demanding that he must take less pay as some foolish fans state, is not.

  • Intropy

    So you don’t think players are to be paid based on what they have done in the past, but you do think players should be cut for what they didn’t do in the past?

  • Intropy

    Completely agree with the article. I’m glad to have read all the various bits and pieces about Colon, but frankly it doesn’t really matter. They signed a contract for his services, and he gets what he gets out of it. Would anyone else take a paycut if asked when he didn’t have to? Nobody is being cheated here.

    Injuries are a fact of life in the NFL, and contracts put a lot of the risk squarely on the franchise with the tradeoff being that they guy they hired is stuck with them and probably takes a lesser pay. Everyone goes into the deal with his eyes open on that point. It’s not like Colon went out there and tried to get injured. It’s a near guarantee that he’d prefer to be healthy and playing for that money than hurt and benched for the money.

    As far as keeping him around. You pay a guy for what you expect to get from him, not what he’s already done. He didn’t contribute much the last two years because he was hurt. That sucks for everyone involved, but again that’s the NFL. So what do you expect in the coming years? Well, before he was hurt, he was a pretty darn good tackle. The Achilles injury was the kind that can linger, but we’re over two years on from that with plenty of time to evaluate the recovery, and the pectoral injury takes time, but generally heals fully. So we should expect performance near what he was signed anticipating. The injuries are unrelated and do not indicate the Colon is especially injury prone. If the Steelers thought he was worth that deal two years ago, then I see no reason why they wouldn’t think he’s worth it today.

  • Ninbadabing

    Restructure simply means to move the numbers around so to make more room under the cap. The players don’t loose money. They got their guaranteed bonus when they originally signed the contract. Personally, I don’t think Colon is worth the money and I wish he would have signed with Chicago. But that does not affect the fact that its simply moving numbers around. Hines is willing to take a pay cut. Not Colon.

  • Dave

    The system is absolutely biased toward the owners. If a player outperforms his contract (let’s say like Antonio Brown who is only making something like $550K), and he has the audacity to ask for a raise, the team (and fans) will trot out the old “sanctity of the contract” argument – the player signed the contract, nobody put a gun to his head to sign it, he needs to live with it, how dare he ask for a raise, he has a bad attitude… blah blah blah….
    But, if a player underperforms his contract, the team is free to cut him or ask him to take a pay cut. Not a peep about the “sanctity of a contract” from the team or fans when the shoe is on the other foot.

    Another thing –
    From purely an economic standpoint, if the stadiums are full, the TV ratings are great, the owners are making billions, then the players aren’t overpaid. If the NFL was having a hard time selling tickets, couldn’t get a billion dollar TV contract and teams were losing money, then maybe you could make an argument that players are overpaid.

    The players’ situation is not at all analogous to Joe Sixpack making $18 an hour, or an office worker making $75K. Nobody is buying a $500 ticket to watch Joe Sixpack work, or paying $100 for his authentic jersey, or lining up for his autograph. There are only 1696 NFL roster spots. There are only 32 starting right tackles. The top 32 people in the world at their profession, just about any profession you could name, are going to be highly paid.

  • Mike

    Cutting a player for underperforming is a provision within the contract. It is part of the negotiation, players and agents know about it going in and often negotiate high signing bonuses and guaranteed money. I don’t think that Colon should take a pay cut as both sides signed the deal and they have the option to release him, but no player should be complaining about the possibility of being cut – they know it going in.

  • Salvatomike

    Sure lets give this guy a bonus. One game in two years. Pfff garbage. Kemo and Colon adios

  • SteelersDepot

    Don’t think anyone is suggesting giving Colon a bonus.

  • Either way, it’s a business. I say cut him if he thinks he get more elsewhere. It’s a deep draft and he’s been injury-prone the past 2 seasons. Honestly, when BR, JH, HW, LW and others have gone and restructured and he wants his money…let him get elsewhere.

  • SteelersDepot

    Colon is not asking for more money & the restructures of Woodley, Timmons and Taylor did not cost them any money.

  • I disagree with the article and I am usually pro player in these situations, the fact is he did get payed very well the last two seasons and he has barely played. There are tons of guys who don’t get payed great their first three seasons, big deal. I hope the Steelers cut him, those stats they use to rank O linemen are bunk and there is no way this guy was ever a top ten tackle in this league, not even for one week, let alone one year. I don’t know how much it will save the team to cut him, but I would rather have almost anyone on this team over that guy.

  • SteelersDepot

    You save a whopping 900K by releasing him. When you factor in a minimum salary to replace him, you save about $500K.

  • He was a loyal Steeler. Let the Steeler’s pay or lose.

  • Stevegeddes

    l agree with you these guys are the ones who take 100% punishment at all times