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March 14, 2018

From free agency to Tiger to Philly's changing of the guards, it's a strange time to be a sports fan

Opinion Al Morganti
031418_Bradford_usat Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports

"Wait, they're going to pay me how much?!?!"

Nobody asked me, but...

It sure looks like general manager Matt Klentak has accelerated the rebuilding process after borrowing more than a few million dollars from John Middleton's cigar box and signing veteran ace Jake Arrieta to a deal that, when all is said and done, could be worth $135 million over the next five years. That's Sam Bradford money, but we'll get to that in minute.

The addition of Arrieta gives the Phils a real chance to hang around the playoff picture through the entire summer, and his work ethic and desire to win should be real plus for more than just the pitching staff. Just having Arrieta around should serve as a great second helping of the optimism and energy we've already seen from first-year manager Gabe Kapler.

Making this deal truly sweet, however, is that Klentak did not have to grant Arrietta and his agent, Scott Boras, the long-term contract they wanted. Instead, the Phils are only committed to the pitcher for three years at $75 million. For sure, it's a massive pile of cash, but with this team's payroll, cash is no problem – and the deal certainly fits in nicely with their longer-term plans.

With an expected middle infield of JP Crawford at shortstop and Scott Kingery at second base, along with Rhys Hoskins in left field, the Phils have added veteran offensive weapon Carlos Santana at first base, and now Arrietta.

There might be a bit longer wait for the Phillies to be a true contender, as in the days of Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, but the wait is over in terms of expecting the team to be relevant in September with a chance to play in October.

* * *

Nobody asked me, but there should be a special place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – and in some sort of economic hall of fame – for Sam Bradford. Now headed to Arizona as his fourth stop, Bradford will be playing for a contract that could be worth another $40 million over the next two seasons.

Latest calculations indicate that by the end of his career, Bradford will have pocketed about $134 million.

Sam Bradford. One hundred and thirty-four million.

* * *

So, Kirk Cousins is headed to the Minnesota Vikings after signing a contract worth $84 million, all of it guaranteed. The quarterback position is certainly the most important in all of American sports, and it is amazing that so many quarterbacks agree to restructured deals in order to get their teams in alignment with the salary cap.

Perhaps the Cousins contract will set a new model in which free agents at any position will be awarded guaranteed contracts.

From this side of the page, it has always seemed ludicrous for any sports team to impose a salary cap, or even Major League Baseball's luxury tax. If an owner wants to be stupid and overpay for a player, let it be – and that owner and franchise will pay the price.

The mere fact that one franchise has a huge wallet hardly guarantees a championship – although it might go a long way to ensure a playoff run, and that is not a bad thing as almost all playoff formats have been stretched.

Half a billion dollars literally falls out of the sky for a satellite TV deal, directly into the owners' pockets. And players have to restructure their deals to make the salary cap work? Amazing.

* * *

Nobody asked me, but the biggest fallout from the Eagles' Super Bowl victory would be if Amazon decided to make its new headquarters in Philadelphia. You can almost picture the news conference now, with Jason Kelce introducing the Amazon execs, all dressed in Mummer's gear...

* * *

The departure of Brent Celek from the Eagles leaves Claude Giroux as the longest-tenured professional athlete in Philadelphia. The Flyers captain has been in Philly since his rookie season in 2008 and is quietly climbing up the club's all-time scoring list. With 656 career points, he's just three shy of equalling Eric Lindros' fifth-place total of 659.

Giroux is on his way to the best season of his career in goals, assists and points – all after he was shifted from center to left wing, despite remaining a faceoff monster. Just a year ago, Giroux was in the midst of a woeful season that saw him produce just 14 goals and 58 points. He's tried to deflect any suggestion that hip surgery played a role in his down season, but it's pretty clear at this point that he and Shayne Gostisbehere were both hampered by similar injuries last season.

There are some whispers that Giroux will be a threat to win the Hart Trophy as the league's Most Valuable Player. It is more likely that Nathan MacKinnon, Evgeni Malkin and Nikita Kucherov get more support, but that will not change the value Giroux has provided the Flyers through a generation of players.

The obvious difference between Celek and Giroux is that Celek played under the radar for many years. But the other difference is that Celek has a ring.

At 30, Giroux is running out of time to make that ring part of his Philly legacy.

* * *

Nobody asked me, but one of the biggest requirements of the recently announced $250 million upgrade of the Wells Fargo Center should be a major upgrade to the scoreboard and sound system. 

* * *

And if anybody asked me, it would be easy to make a case that Tiger Woods is the most important athlete in any sport over the last two decades. Woods' impact on golf is at rare level, one that was had largely been reserved for heavyweight boxers.

When Woods made a run at last weekend's Valspar Championship, the ratings jumped over 180% from last year's event. Suddenly, sports bars actually had golf on at least one of the screens, and more people had their eyes glued to that set than any other.

The Twittersphere lit up with comments about Woods making a comeback statement, and many of the tweets came from athletes in America's other major sports, all of whom were swooning over Tiger's comeback attempt.

His presence alone makes the sports world a better place. It's just a lot more fun counting down the days until spring arrives when Tiger has a chance to win the Masters.

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