Double-dipping can be a good thing

The long-awaited and much-debated signing of Michael Crabtree has had an indirect negative cash-flow impact on the 49ers a week after its execution.

After the NFL granted the 49ers a two-week exemption to allow Crabtree to get acclimated before activating him, the team opted not to take advantage of it during their bye week and activated Crabtree so he could practice with the team.

With Crabtree in, someone had to be out. The player who got squeezed was longtime veteran Allen Rossum, a popular return specialist. I got to know Allen well during his time with the Packers -- after trading a fifth-round draft pick to the Eagles to bring him to Green Bay. He’s a class act, a family man and respected teammate. He’s also one of the few players in the league I could ever see eye-to-eye with since he’s generously listed at 5-foot-8 (unless he’s grown since I saw him last, he’s never seen 5-8).

After completing a one-year deal with the 49ers in 2008, Rossum was brought back in March, signing another one-year deal with a $250,000 signing bonus and the 10-year veteran minimum of $845,000. Having been on the roster for five weeks, Rossum earned $249,000 of that salary, meaning the 49ers paid Rossum $500,000 for his contribution this year -- three punt returns averaging seven yards and seven kickoff returns averaging 21.7 yards.

The 49ers’ obligation to Rossum doesn’t end there, however. As a vested veteran on the roster at the start of the season, he’s due the balance of his 845,000 salary in the form of termination pay. So in February, Rossum can file for termination pay and receive a check from the 49ers for the $596,000 that he’s due.

In a fortuitous bounce, Rossum gets to double dip. He not only is able to collect the 596,000 from the 49ers, he will get the same amount from another team. Following his termination, Rossum signed as a free agent with the Cowboys for that same veteran minimum of 845,000 and will receive $596,000 from Dallas provided he remains on the roster the rest of the season.

I remember experiencing a similar situation with another return specialist. In my first year with the Packers in 1999, we signed Desmond Howard as a free agent for his second tour of duty with the Packers, a much less successful stint compared to his first. We released him a few games into the season, entitling him to termination pay for the balance of his salary. We then watched Desmond play in our division for five games with the Lions, returning kicks and punts against us while we were, in essence, paying him. That was frustrating to watch, but a nice double dip for him.

Although getting cut a few weeks into the season is not a great career move for anyone, it is now good to be Allen Rossum, who will receive almost $600,000 from both the 49ers and Cowboys for the remainder of this season.

Sorry to end the week on a sad note, but it caught my eye that a former player named Cullen Bryant passed away Thursday. I’m old enough to remember Cullen Bryant, a big running back for the Rams for a decade who finished up his career with the Seahawks in the early ‘80s.

As a lecturer in sports law, I teach about the former “Rozelle Rule,” the first semblance of free agency in the NFL. Under the rule, if a player signed with a new team, the incumbent team would receive compensation in the form of draft choices or players. If the teams were unable to agree on compensation, the commissioner was empowered to award what he felt was appropriate.

When the Rams signed a receiver from the Lions named Ron Jessie, Rozelle ruled that Bryant was the appropriate compensation. Bryant refused to go and brought a case in federal court. Rozelle relented, and Bryant was allowed to stay in Los Angeles (this case was a precursor to the Mackey case, which eventually declared the Rozelle Rule illegal). Bryant was successful on the field and in the (legal) court.

The part of Thursday’s story that struck me was that Bryant died at age 58 of natural causes. What are the natural causes for someone to die at such a young age? Did his 13 seasons in the NFL contribute to his shortened life? The cause of death leaves me wondering. Rest in peace, Cullen Bryant.

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