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Wednesday whys: The reason for veteran signings

Also, Goodell holds off suspensions and Crabtree’s financial loss. Andrew Brandt

Print This September 16, 2009, 11:10 AM EST

Why are teams now starting to sign vested veterans?

The financial ramifications of signing vested players became much less severe on Monday. As I wrote last week, any vested player on a roster at the start of the regular season is required to be paid his full salary -- as termination pay -- in the event he’s released. That requirement was significantly reduced as of Monday. Now, a vested veteran must only be paid one-quarter of his salary or one-quarter of the minimum salary for a 10-year veteran ($845,000, one-quarter being $211,000), whichever is greater. That’s a long way from a full salary. It is this quirk in the CBA that causes teams to think twice about retaining veterans on the roster bubble prior to the first game.

Vested veterans signing this week include quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and A.J. Feeley, linebacker D.D. Lewis, wide receiver Bobby Wade, guard Sean Mahan and running back Verron Haynes. In the case of Haynes, he was cut on Saturday as the Falcons avoided full-year termination pay while still paying him for the week (any player on the roster on Tuesday of the week receives his weekly pay). He was re-signed on Monday, thus not missing a paycheck yet only due the lesser termination pay if he’s released again.

Why did Commissioner Roger Goodell not suspend Charles Grant and Will Smith of the Saints for their positive drug tests?

Although Grant and Smith tested positive for Bumetanide, the same banned diuretic that Pat and Kevin Williams of the Vikings did, the commissioner ruled that for competitive reasons the two Saints players would get similar treatment as the two Vikings players despite the fact no legal ruling exists for Grant and Smith to be treated as such. As written here on Monday, Minnesota state law -- an employee-friendly testing policy -- trumped the CBA in allowing Pat and Kevin Williams to continue playing.

Although no such case or precedent exists in Louisiana, the commissioner felt that suspending these players for the same positive test as the Williamses -- although certainly within his power -- would upset the all-important competitive balance that exists between teams.

In theory, Deuce McAllister, also originally suspended for use of the same substance yet not currently on an NFL roster, would also not be required to serve a suspension should he sign with a team.

All of this creates a messy and chaotic scenario for enforcement of any positive test of this substance, exactly the kind of disorder and confusion the NFL abhors. The appellate court's ruling in the Williamses’ case has the league and the union still buzzing. The parties are astounded that a collectively bargained agreement can be ignored due to a state law, meaning that the same thing could happen throughout the league, rendering the Policy for Substance Abuse impotent.

Why is there still one Saints player who has to be upset over these rulings?

The first player suspended for use of Bumetanide was Saints guard Jamar Nesbit. Nesbit started the process of uncovering the suspect labeling of the StarCaps product and filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer.

Nesbit served a four-game suspension last season, losing more than one-quarter of his 2008 salary. He also recently took a pay reduction with the Saints to avoid being released. He must be shaking his head (and fist) watching other players avoid suspensions for ingestion of the same product he took.

Timing is everything. Nesbit’s was not good.

Why are the financial consequences of the Michael Crabtree holdout not severe enough to cause a dramatic reaction?

The way that contracts of top rookies are structured allows Crabtree to continue to be absent without dramatic financial consequences. Unlike veteran contracts, such as those of Richard Seymour and Dunta Robinson, both of whom reported in the last week in order to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in Week 1 salary, rookie contracts are structured much differently and, in an odd twist, in a way that does not discourage this type of behavior.

As with many of the first-round deals negotiated this and every year, Crabtree's base salary this season will be at or close to minimum. The bulk of his compensation -- both this year and for the contract as a whole -- will be in bonuses: roster bonus, option bonus, signing bonus, one-time incentive bonus, future workout bonuses, etc. So the only amount Crabtree has potentially lost on his contract by missing the first game is 1/17th of the rookie minimum ($310,000), or approximately $18,000.

That is, of course, unless the 49ers are "modifying" their offer with each missed game (more on that below).

An area of the contract that a long absence could affect is the escalator, a mechanism to increase future salary and, in some cases, bonus payments based on established levels of performance. For a receiver, the levels revolve around number of receptions, reception yardage and touchdowns. Establishing the thresholds for these levels and the amounts accorded to each is a process that can take longer than the negotiation for the hard money of the contract (I speak from experience, having just participated in negotiating Jeremy Maclin’s contract with the Eagles).

Crabtree has missed one game and there’s no end in sight, thus reducing his chance for early production on his contract. The levels of production may still not be agreed on, but his chances to earn escalators based on 2009 production will continue to dwindle.

So why is Crabtree continuing to hold out?

For the same reason Brett Favre could continue to make the Vikings wait on a decision --because he can. Crabtree has an offer on the table that essentially matches the deal given to the pick above him, the Packers’ B.J. Raji. Now the president of the team and son of the owner, Jed York, has reportedly requested a meeting. That’s a sign the 49ers are still negotiating in good faith with no sign of contentiousness. Until the 49ers present significant consequences to not taking that deal, which my source says they have not done, Crabtree feels he can continue to wait.

Why is the threat to reduce the offer to Michael Crabtree a risky one?

It isn’t, as long as the team is prepared to follow through with the threat. If not, the threat is a hollow one and will demonstrate to Crabtree and the rest of the team that the front office has more bark than bite. Crabtree and his agent, Eugene Parker, know they have the leverage of being a player the team was thrilled to draft and sees a strong future for.

We have reached a test of wills in San Francisco; Parker and Crabtree continue to have faith that the 49ers will blink first. Despite reports that Crabtree will sit out the season and enter the 2010 draft, I don't believe it for a second. He has until Nov. 17 to sign before that can become a reality. That’s a long time.

And now for my Pet Peeve Why of the Week:

Why do we hear about Mark Sanchez being destined for greatness after one win against the Texans?

I get the fact that Sanchez represents a great deal of hope and is the future of the New York Jets. However, the one highlight of the game that keeps rolling is a touchdown pass from Sanchez to Chansi Stuckey in which the nearest Texan is not even in the picture. Let’s see where Sanchez is in a couple of months.

Join me today at 3:30 p.m. for a live chat where I’ll answer questions about the business of football and the inner workings of the game. See you then.

Follow me on Twitter: adbrandt

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