Wednesday whys: Dealing with White’s contract

Why is the Roddy White contract about more than Roddy White?

Situations like these – with players flexing muscles about their contracts and the market passing them by -- are out there for every team in the NFL. If a team says it has no such problems, it’s lying. From a front office and management perspective, the importance of these issues is that whatever decision is made, it affects the entire team, not just the player who is being addressed.

White’s value and talent are not the issue, nor is the fact he had outplayed his rookie contract paying him $2.28 million this year and had elevated his game to the top echelon of receivers. The difficult part for the Falcons and their precedent was that White had not reported to training camp and exhibited behavior – a nine-day holdout from an existing contract -- that was not in the best interests of the team. That behavior ultimately led to the negotiation of one of the strongest contracts ever for a wide receiver.

The Falcons now have to deal with the team beyond White. What’s to prevent their other top players from withholding their services in order to gain a financial advantage? Certainly, they can always try to distinguish White as different, as White’s agent successfully argued, but that argument may fall on deaf ears of players looking for upgrades.

Contract holdouts and leverage plays are not about just the player; they’re about the team. Everyone in the locker room is watching and waiting to see how management reacts. Their response will determine whether there’s a line at the door of the front office for similar treatment.

Why won’t the Houston Texans agree not to place the franchise tag on Dunta Robinson in order to get him to sign his contract?

This echoes the question above as the Texans have realized that how they approach Robinson is a template for how they deal with players in this situation.

Robinson and his agents would gladly agree to him signing a franchise tender and coming to training camp if the Texans would agree to language that agrees to not place the franchise tag on him again in 2010, which, as we sit here today, is a year without a salary cap. This is an allowance that was made to players such as Albert Haynesworth by the Titans and Assante Samuel by the Patriots, moves made to bring them into camp with a quid pro quo of this memorialized promise.

The Texans have said no – rightly, in my view. Their remarks have reflected that this is a decision not about Robinson but about all future franchise players or potential franchise players on the team. Once precedent is set, agents and players smell the blood in the water and want the same for themselves.

Now Robinson will probably sit at home until the real paychecks start the week the season opens, where he will make one-seventeenth of his $9.96M ($586,000) every week compared to his $2,000 a week during training camp. The Texans have made their decision and will live with his absence through these dog days of August.

Why was White a “holdout,” while the unsigned draft picks and franchise players were not really “holdouts”?

White was under contract and in breach of that contract by not reporting to training camp. He was subject to daily fines of approximately $17,000 and potentially other discipline depending on how long his holdout lasted.

The rookies – as well as franchise players such as Dunta Robinson – are unsigned players and therefore not “holding out” from any existing contract. They are simply players for whom the teams hold rights but do not have binding contracts. Thus the distinction.

And my Pet Peeve Why of the Week…

Why are questions even asked of coaches, players and executives about how their teams will do this season?

What do media and fans expect them to say? Is it news that they think their teams will do well? It will be news when a coach or player says, “I don’t think we’ll win much this year, but hey, there’s always 2010!”

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