The St. Louis Rams have always been a franchise that has had problems with timing. They never seem to be able to time things well when breaking good or bad news to their fans. This weekend was another example of that. Two business moves were announced and both moves were contradictory to one another. The Rams release O.J. Atogwe and then announced that they would be raising ticket prices in the same 24-hour period. They save money and then charge more money for their product in the same breath almost. It is not exactly the best message to be sending out to your fan base.
While it is not the best message to be relaying to your fans the moves actually both make sense from a business perspective even though they appear to be contradictory. In the case of Atogwe the Rams were going to have to pay the safety an $8 Million roster bonus this week. The Rams would then have to pay him another $5 Million for his salary base in 2011. That means that Atogwe would have made $13 Million from the Rams in 2011 assuming a full season takes place.
As much as his coaches, teammates and fans like him there is no way in the world you can give Atogwe $13 Million this season. In addition you really couldn’t afford to do it with not knowing what kind of labor deal is going to be in place. There is a possibility that there is a salary cap in 2011 and you would have Atogwe taking up $13 Million of that theoretically. You cannot afford to pay that much to someone that had three interceptions and two sacks last season from the safety position. In addition Atogwe is turning 30 years old this year and do you want to pay that much to an aging safety? This is not to say that Atogwe is not a valuable player, just not at this price.
Atogwe has left the door open with the Rams to try and work out a deal to possibly come back and play here in St. Louis, but that seems unlikely after the years of free agent limbo that the two sides have been in for the past three seasons. Atogwe has already been rumored to be talking with the Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills. There will be lots of teams who will have interest, but like the Rams, won’t be paying Atogwe the sort of money the Rams would have had they not released him.
Where the Rams go from here at the safety position is very much up in the air. The safety position is not real strong in this year’s NFL Draft. Meanwhile the NFL Free Agency situation is very much up in the air as well. Whether there is a free agency period or not remains to be seen. The Rams did the right thing even though it does hurt to do it. It is strictly business.
As far as the ticket price-raise it is also just a good business decision. The Rams brought ticket prices down and held the line on ticket prices through the past couple of seasons. Now that the team is better, theoretically, and the economy is getting better, theoretically, it is time for the Rams to raise their revenues through ticket prices. The Rams ticket actually started to become a commodity again and thus they can afford to raise their prices again.
For the Rams this is again a matter of poor timing. There is never a good time to announce you are raising ticket prices, but the Rams managed to make a bad announcement worse, by coupling it with the Atogwe release. Then throw in the clouds of a lockout hanging over the team and it is just a bad mess. It is a difficult sell to tell an average hard working Rams fan that you are willing to throw away your season, via lockout, as NFL ownership, but we want you to buy season tickets at a higher price in 2011. As I said there is never a good time to say we want you to pay more money, but the Rams sure managed to pick a rough time to do that.
The NFL is big business and they run their business just like any major corporation does. They just do it with a bigger audience than other major businesses in this country. The Rams made two financial decisions that make sense on a financial level. On a personal level though it stinks. Atogwe was a good player, a good person and a good citizen of St. Louis. On the ticket front the Rams fans have endured some bad times and now that things are getting better the fans have to pay more. The bottom line is all that matters. Such is life in the United States in 2011. Dollars over people.
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