Wednesday whys: Behind Crabtree deal

With our long-running Michael Crabtree drama ending today, we answer questions about the conclusion of “The Crabtree Files”...

Why were Crabtree and the 49ers finally able to get a deal done?

It was time. As we know, this negotiation took on a life of its own and had been dormant since late August. To boil it down to its essence, the 49ers wanted to slot Crabtree in the 10th position and even bump right up against the selection above him, B.J. Raji of the Packers. Crabtree’s position was that the most relevant data point was not Raji but Darrius Heyward-Bey, who went three picks earlier and received a player-friendly wider receiver contract from the Oakland Raiders.

My sense is that Parker, Crabtree and special adviser Deion Sanders had settled on this date for a while to get a deal done. For whatever reasons they had, their date in mind was following Week 4 of the NFL season. There was not much to lose by waiting as they felt the structure of the deal would minimize the damage of missing four game checks.

Parker was strategic in bringing the player to the meeting. It’s always more difficult for management to take a hard line with an agent when the player is present. Whatever deal Crabtree received, it would have been worse had he not also be there, albeit before the nuts and bolts were ironed out.

Why is the contract being reported as a six-year deal?

Technically, it’s being written as a six-year deal. There are different types of six-year deals, though. There are those -- such as that of Tyson Jackson (a Parker client), the third selection in the draft – in which the sixth year voids based on minimum performance standards. These standards usually involve 35 percent play time in year one or 45 percent play time in subsequent years and the easiest allowable statistical standards. If the deal is written that way, it’s really a five-year deal, with guarantees and total compensation to match.

If, however, the contract requires some true thresholds for performance -- not minimum standards -- then this may be a true six-year deal. If so, the guarantees and total compensation are likely adjusted to higher numbers.

For instance, the fourth pick in the draft, Aaron Curry of the Seahawks, did a true six-year deal that compared favorably in guaranteed money to Jackson. Curry received $34 million in guaranteed money compared to $31M for Jackson, who was picked one spot in front of him. Thus, Curry chose roughly $4 million of guaranteed money in exchange for a sixth year.

My sense here from talking to some key people is that this deal is a hybrid between a true five-year deal and a true six-year deal. Crabtree has performance standards to meet well beyond the minimum allowable, but those standards only have to be met in two of the first four years of the contract to void the sixth year. Additionally, Crabtree will receive a better package than a traditional five-year contract. We’ll have the numbers on the deal soon.

As to reports that the sixth-year salary, if not voided, is $4M, that may be true, but it is the pre-escalator number. Whether it’s a result of positive or negative performance over the coming years, it’s extremely unlikely Crabtree will be playing for the 49ers in 2014 for a $4M salary.

Why was MC Hammer -- or is it just Hammer? -- involved in this deal?

I have no idea. This one brings back strong memories for me. I represented Ricky Williams 10 years ago after recruiting him for two years and developing what I thought was a strong relationship. Yet a month before the 1999 draft, Ricky wanted me to leave my firm and work with rapper/entrepreneur Master P. We parted as friends, and I went to the Green Bay Packers and he went to P.

Hammer is very close with Deion Sanders, who has become very close with Crabtree. My guess is that Sanders -- who spoke casually a couple weeks ago about teams’ tampering with Crabtree -- brought in Hammer who, in turn, impressed Crabtree with his, uh, business acumen. Hammer did not actually negotiate any of this deal.

As mentioned here in the spring, the concern with Crabtree was that there was a herd around him that may not have had his best interests at heart. That group included a cousin and self-proclaimed adviser who started the idea of Crabtree sitting out the season in an interview with ESPN. My sources had told me that most of those people are out of Crabtree’s inner circle now and that Parker was more involved in controlling the herd, save Hammer, I guess.

I’ve been there; it could have been me and P.

Why did this deal take so long?

As we’ve said, from the outside it appeared to be completely unnecessary for this deal to have lasted into October. Some facts that we’ve become aware of complicated matters, including:

The 49ers stepped forward right away to get this deal done with what they felt was an aggressive offer in early May. The team was frustrated that the offer received minimal reaction; the player was frustrated that the offer did not later reflect the market that eventually came in.

The player has a healthy opinion of himself and was surrounded by the herd of people mentioned above.

The Raiders’ contract with Heyward-Bey was extremely strong, with a base value of $38.25M and another $5M in easy escalators. Crabtree’s camp honed in on that deal and was crushed over an offer that was barely half that number; the 49ers would not accept a deal three picks away as a key data marker.

Other teams had interest in Crabtree prior to the trading deadline of Aug. 14. Whether that interest amounted to tampering, time will tell after an NFL investigation.

Other agents were trying to get to Crabtree, including an agent group that was a finalist for Crabtree in his selection process and was having regular communication with the 49ers about the process.

Be sure to return at 3:30 p.m. eastern today for a chat about our friend Crabtree and any other questions you want to ask.

Follow me on Twitter: adbrandt

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