Patriots and Chargers do what they do
While the stalemate between the Jets and Darrelle Revis continues, there is one important fact about that stare down that separates it from other situations around the league. The Jets are trying to negotiate with Revis despite the fact he is only halfway through his six-year rookie contract. They may not be agreeing on the terms, but as anyone watching HBO can tell, Revis has clearly been on their minds. Contrast that with the approach of a couple other teams.
The Patriots and Chargers have achieved sustained on-field success over the past decade in a challenging system set up to foster parity. Off the field, their attitude in player negotiations is to do as they do and deal with players and agents in a way that is business, certainly not personal.
Agents repeatedly express frustration in dealing with the Patriots and Chargers, as tactics used to stir up angst in the team’s front office have little to no effect.
The change for free agency from four to six years in this uncapped year saved tens of millions of dollars for the Chargers. Instead of having to decide on Vincent Jackson, Marcus McNeil, Darren Sproles, Shawne Merriman and Malcolm Floyd, they can wait for a year before deciding where to spend their money. And with these players saddled with their one-year tenders, they extended the existing contract of Antonio Gates.
ICONSmith doesn't tolerate player discontent.
When McNeil and Jackson balked at signing their tender, the Chargers responded by reducing the tenders from around $3.2 million to $600,000, as allowed by the rules. And they have sent letters to the players as to their non-reporting to camp, requiring them to miss three games of the season upon their return (the Chargers used this tactic with Gates before he ended his holdout in 2005).
Chargers general manager AJ Smith is known as someone tough and intolerant when it comes to player negotiations. He does not deal with agents, leaving that task to capable vice president Ed McGuire (I handled that role in Green Bay as Ted Thompson rarely spoke with agents). He wants it known that the team will not blink in contentious negotiations.
Jackson and McNeill – the latter rebuffed in an effort to even have his original $3.2 million one-year offer restored – continue to sit, convinced they have little to lose with reduced earnings of around $600,000. And Smith and the Chargers continue to move on without them.
The Patriots have had a lot of disgruntled players yet few who express their discontent while on the roster. Like the Chargers, the Patriots will not be cowered by players and their agents. Unlike the Chargers and Smith, however, the Patriots and Bill Belichick will not engage publicly, preferring to offer up only bland non-answers when asked about players and their issues.
Mankins and his agent have expressed their displeasure about how the team has "lost" the player and were expecting the Patriots to send the roster exempt letter that the Chargers sent to their holdout players.
The response of Belichick and the team has been silent indifference. As much as the media tries, Belichick will not take the bait; he will not provide fodder for the player and the agent. His indifference, to players and agents, is maddening and worse than Smith’s defiance.
And, of course, the Patriots continue to engage in negotiations with Tom Brady. Brady is too classy to complain but is frustrated with the process. The team is careful to say the right things about Brady, but one gets the sense Belichick feels he can just keep moving on with whatever hand he is dealt. He won with Matt Cassel and can win with the next guy. Either way, Belichick maintains his bland stance, even about the team’s best players.
Two teams with strong success on the field, now engaged in tense negotiations with top players. There is no angst, no concern, no empathy with their stars. They move on.
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