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Eddie Johnson’s frustrations shouldn’t have anything to do with Jordan Morris

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Incomplete reporting on the total value of Morris’ contract has probably fanned the flames.

Seattle Sounders v Portland Timbers - Western Conference Semifinals Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Ever since news of his rather significant contract extension leaked out on Thursday, Jordan Morris has been taking hits from all sides. Predictably and understandably, there are pundits who have questioned the intelligence of giving such a deal to a player coming off a season-long injury. Fans have joined the chorus, too, which should not come as a huge surprise.

What I’m a little more surprised about is a former player like Eddie Johnson coming in as hot as he did.

He followed it up with a tweet that took even more direct aim at Morris.

Essentially, he seems to feel as though he was promised something he didn’t get and that Morris is effectively receiving preferential treatment. I can’t speak to what he was promised with any sort of authority and am not really interested in re-litigating the circumstances of his departure. But I do think that Morris’ situation has suffered from some incomplete reporting and that the way he was treated at a similar point in his career is not that different from how Johnson was treated.

First off, as I reported on Thursday, saying Morris is making $1 million a year doesn’t appear to be particularly accurate. I’ve not confirmed exact numbers, but through various conversations I feel confident in saying that Morris will not be paid nearly that much during the guaranteed portion of his contract. To even approach $1 million a year during the three-year part of the contract that is guaranteed, Morris would have to hit some significant performances bonuses.

Let’s also keep in mind that 24-year-old Morris is not exactly some slouch who has yet to achieve anything in his professional career. Morris already has 17 professional goals and five more at the senior international level, despite losing a whole year to injury. His 2016 production was better than all but two of Johnson’s 10 MLS seasons. He was due to the enter the final year of his contract and while you can argue that he’s getting overcompensated, I think the degree to which that is true is being vastly overstated.

Take nothing away from the early stages of Johnson’s career, the guy was a legit phenom. He signed with MLS as a 16-year-old and broke out with a 12-goal season as a 20-year-old. By the time he transferred to Fulham — after twice rejecting transfers to European teams — he had already scored 41 MLS goals and 10 more for the United States national team.

But he was also being reasonably well compensated, at least by the standards of MLS at the time. In 2007 — when he turned 23 — Johnson was in the third year of a contract that was paying him $875,000 in guaranteed compensation. That made him the league’s fifth highest paid player. There were only four players making at least $1 million a year at the time, all of whom were legitimate international stars.

Contrast that with the salaries of today. There were more than 50 players making more than $1 million in 2018. Morris wasn’t even among the top 10 paid players on the Sounders and I’d venture to guess he won’t be among the top 5 in 2019 even after his raise.

If Johnson had his 23-year-old season in 2018 instead of 2007, I have no doubt he’d be in line for a contract far more lucrative than the one Morris just signed.

I’m sure Johnson’s feelings of mistreatment are at least based in reality. That he didn’t get a cut of his transfer fee in 2007 is ridiculous, but at least that’s an issue that has been addressed in the current CBA. He clearly feels like the Sounders did him wrong by trading him, rather than making him a DP — which, by the way, would have necessitated parting ways with one of Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins or Osvaldo Alonso since there was no such thing as Targeted Allocation Money back then. As it was, Johnson was among the Top 25 paid players in 2014, even at the by-now modest salary of $613,000. That’s also probably more than Morris will make in 2019.

I can definitely understand why Johnson feels like he had to work a lot harder to get a contract like what Morris just signed. I just don’t think Johnson’s frustrations should have anything to do with Morris, whose recent contract is more a product of the economic reality than of some sort of preferential treatment. You’d like to think that Johnson would be happy to see players finally being compensated a bit more like they are in the rest of the world, rather than using them as props in personal beefs.