Howard Balzer wrote:
Posted 7/15/2004 1:05 PM Contract season puts Postons into play
Around several NFL precincts this summer, it could very well be considered the summer of the Postons.
Rather than talking about possible Super Bowls, who's looking good in training camp and just simple football talk, contract negotiations promise to take center stage.
With July 15 here and the opening of camps within the next two weeks, fans will be reading way too much about contract issues but most notably those involving agents Carl and Kevin Poston in ...
• Cleveland, Jacksonville and Carolina, where they represent tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., the seventh overall selection in April's draft, as well as wide receiver Reggie Williams (ninth overall) and cornerback Chris Gamble (28th overall);
• Oakland, St. Louis and San Francisco, where three of the league's five unsigned franchise players play: cornerback Charles Woodson, tackle Orlando Pace and linebacker Julian Peterson. All have the Postons as their agent;
• Washington, where a grievance is expected to be heard in August regarding a $6.5 million roster bonus allegedly not included by the Redskins last December in a renegotiated contract for linebacker LaVar Arrington. Yes, Arrington is also represented by Carl Poston.
The Winslow contract should be the least difficult, along with Williams and Gamble, considering that first-round picks are slotted according to where they are selected in the round. The Postons might try to claim that Winslow was rated No. 1 on some team's draft boards, but that argument is essentially one-sided. First, he wasn't picked No. 1, and second, when was the last time we heard an agent say he would accept less for a player because he was selected higher than expected? Next question.
Where many of the contract stalemates occur is on a player's second contract and when that player has excelled at a high level. That's where the Postons' demands enter the stratosphere and make it near impossible for a team to negotiate.
After the Rams received a $71 million proposal for Pace in March that included a $27 million signing bonus and another $7 million in guaranteed money (almost as much guaranteed money as the Colts gave quarterback Peyton Manning), president of football operations Jay Zygmunt said: "It's just a waste of time dealing with him (Carl). It makes no sense. Anyone can ask for anything; that's easy to do. Why not ask for a billion dollars? It wouldn't matter."
Zygmunt noted how often the situations put the player at odds with the team.
Look no further than the relationship between cornerback Ty Law, another Poston client, and the Patriots during the offseason.
When either of the Postons talk to the media, which is rare (and they did not return a phone call for a comment for this column), they raise more questions about their tactics. Last year, in a radio interview with KFNS Radio in St. Louis, they noted that Pace's one-year tender as the franchise player was unfairly low because the league includes all offensive linemen contracts in computing the tender.
Of course, the reverse is true. When some of the top five players are non-tackles, that only increases the tender from what it would be if only tackles were included. In fact, Pace's tender in 2003 would have been about $500,000 lower if it was determined on just the contracts of tackles.
49ers general manager Terry Donahue felt compelled to inform the media that the team had offered Peterson a $15.5 million signing bonus, and that his total package was in the same area as Baltimore's Ray Lewis and Chicago's Brian Urlacher.
Similar to Pace's, however, the guaranteed money in the proposal for Peterson was about $30 million. The agents don't simply seek deals that would make their players the best-paid at their position. They want them paid at the top of the entire league.
In defending the asking price for Pace, Kevin Poston told The (Oakland) Tribune: "Anyone that knows football would tell you the value of a left tackle. Peyton Manning goes out and gets $98 million, gets $35 million to sign. Orlando Pace is being told that asking for $71 million is way too much. If those two guys are $30 million apart in value, then I need to get out of this business."
No comment necessary.
July 15 is a key date because that is the first time negotiations can resume on long-term contracts with franchise players so teams can retain a franchise tag for future years. In addition, the player must sign the tender first before talks can start. That tag would stay on the player for as long as the new contract if there was a deal signed before July 15, or if there were negotiations conducted after March 17 and before the tender was signed.
It's clearly in the best interests of the player to sign the tender sooner, not later, so negotiations can begin again. The later in the summer the player signs the tender and reports, the less chance there is of reaching agreement on a new deal that includes a large signing bonus.
There would be one way new deals could happen a lot quicker. The five franchise players — tackle Walter Jones and cornerback Chris McAlister are the others — have tenders totaling $36.1 million. Even if their agents charge just 3%, that would be $1.08 million in agent fees for a contract set by the league.
Suppose a player told his agent he's paying the fee for only a contract actually negotiated? Now that's something to think about.
THE NEXT DRAFT: The NFL will conduct a supplemental draft July 20, but, no, Maurice Clarett and Mike Williams won't be included. All are players with special circumstances that led to them applying for the draft.
Last year, Houston selected running back Tony Hollings in the second round of the supplemental draft. This year, a few intriguing prospects could end up being selected or signed as free agents.
A team drafting a player loses that pick in the applicable round next year.
Available as of July 12 are: safety James Allen, Brigham Young; running back Reynaldo Brathwaite, Brigham Young; wide receiver Chris Chatman, Midwestern (Texas) State; linebacker Ike Emodi, East Carolina; running back Larry Graham, Virginia Union; linebacker Chad Mascoe, Central Florida; guard Mataio Toilolo, Montana State; and defensive end Seante Williams, Jacksonville State.
Allen and Braithwaite were dismissed from school for a violation of the honor code. Braithwaite's was permanent, while Allen could have re-applied in one year. School officials said both are good people who made one mistake. Braithwaite (5-10, 170 pounds) led the Cougars in rushing last year with 891 yards, averaging 5.6 yards a carry, and had a 95-yard run. Also 5-10, 170, Allen has 4.38 speed in the 40 and had 57 tackles with four sacks last season. Special teams is where he could make an immediate mark on an NFL team.
Others to watch are Emodi (6-4, 231), who was making the switch from safety before being declared academically ineligible; Toilolo, who started at left guard last season and has good quickness for his size; and Williams, who has good pass-rush skills.
QUESTIONS ABOUT FAULK: There was a significant amount of over-reaction last week to reports that Rams running back Marshall Faulk might retire this summer.
The truth is this: Faulk, who is 31, has told people he has some concern whether his knee will be right. There are those inside the Rams who share the concern. However, most still believe Faulk will play this season, even if it is in a smaller role after the selection of Steven Jackson in the draft.
The Rams know the history of how runners' productivity dramatically declines after they reach the age of 30. That's why they were intrigued with Clarett at the combine and might have picked Kevin Jones if they hadn't traded up for Jackson.
Retirement is the absolute worst-case scenario. To call it likely is a stretch.
Howard Balzer writes for Sports Weekly, email him at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org