The contract conundrum

The majority of college head coaches ask their players to refrain from talking to agents until after the season has ended. Many agents, however, contact players and want to talk to them before the season starts. This is a long-standing conflict of interest that occurs as college juniors and seniors find themselves at the border between their college and pro careers. While many coaches want them to focus on the former, the players are eager to start planning for the latter. Various issues arise from this, all of which have the potential to affect an athlete’s future career in a negative way.

Because nothing is being done to change the system, this conflict continues to take place every year. Agents persist. Coaches remain unaware. Players are willing to meet and talk. Most formal screening programs established by universities are ineffective in highlighting good agents. Parents become overwhelmed while trying to serve as buffers and receptors of information. The most aggressive and even unscrupulous agents are rewarded, while those who honor the wishes of head coaches are penalized for their patience.

Last May, I called a small 1A school and left a message for the head coach, saying I wanted to meet with one of his seniors in the summer. Since I also represent coaches, I’m very sensitive to their wishes, and I always go through the front door to contact players. Like many other times, I never heard back. I then contacted the pro coach liaison, a position coach in charge of handling pro scouts. Three messages later, he finally called me back, and I explained my intentions. I reminded him that I had represented the highest draft pick ever in the school’s history just a few years earlier and remarked how well things were going for that player. I asked the coach if I could have a meeting with the prospect in their football office. I told the coach that everything I do as an agent is transparent, and I wanted them to be a part of the process, reassuring the head coach that everything would be on the up and up. However, after the pro liaison talked to the head coach and actually recommended to him that I might be a good fit for his player based on their previous high draft pick, the coach was adamant that there would be zero contact with any agents for his star player.

After hearing that, I sent a letter and brochure to the player in care of the football office. I also did some work, got an email address for the player and contacted him several times. My goal was to simply let him know I was very interested in working with him. Finally, in August, I received a response that said, “Thanks for the interest, but I already met with three agents this summer and most likely will go with Agent X.”

I responded with a “Thanks for getting back to me and good luck. I’m here if things change.” I didn’t tell the player, but Agent X has high turnover rate, has been fined in the past for an unscrupulous violation and isn’t respected in the agent community. Once again, the aggressive agent going through the back door is rewarded, and the head coach has no idea what’s going on with his own players.

There are players who do adhere to their coaches’ wishes, and some even have parents who are qualified to do the screening. Unfortunately, however, there are many parents who get overwhelmed by the process and simply fall in love with the agent or agency that has the most well-known players.

The conundrum for respectable agents is this: Do I wait until after the season to begin contacting players, or do I get my foot in the door as soon as possible against the wishes of many college coaches?

The conundrum for the player is this: Do I wait until after the season to start the process and cram it into one week after the bowl game, or do I go against my coach’s wishes and start interviewing some agents now?”

The players who rush to make a decision usually regret it. Many players even sign with the first agent they meet just to get the process over with and begin training for the Combine. Those who take their time start the process early, listen to several types of agents and practice due diligence. They usually make a great decision and rarely have to change agents.

I believe there should be a formal process and a window in May, June or July in which players, coaches and agents can have direct contact with seniors. This would at least allow the athletes to start the process, learn about some prospective representatives and get a feel for the business side of their own futures. During camp and the season, contact can be restricted to off weeks and/or the time between the last game and bowl games, or even put off until after the season. This way, players won’t make hurried decisions, coaches can be part of the process that’s currently happening behind their backs, and players and parents will have sufficient time to identify and select quality representation.

The current system, or lack of one, needs improvement.

Follow me on Twitter: jackbechta

Big deal for a small corner

First, a note about the play of the day. We constantly hear about the need for disciplined repetition in the long offseason, about the long hours that quarterbacks and receivers put in working on pass patterns from March through July in the hope they’ll pay off during the season.

Sunday’s play of the day, however, featured two players who didn’t have an offseason with their team. Brett Favre — in case you haven’t heard — joined the Minnesota Vikings in mid-August when he finally walked through the door that was left open for him for a year. Greg Lewis was an Eagle when the offseason started, then was traded to the Patriots for a fifth-round pick. Bill Belichick always liked Greg Lewis; well, at least he did before making Lewis one of the team’s final cuts. Then, when Bobby Wade wouldn’t take a pay cut from the Vikings and was released (he’s now with the Chiefs), Lewis replaced Wade on the roster. So two players who joined the Vikings in August and September, who never had one rep together prior to the start of the season, made the play of the day. So much for reps.

One other note: I’ve seen those Seattle Seahawks uniforms before. When I was general manager of the Barcelona Dragons in 1991, we played the Orlando Thunder and their blinding lime green uniforms. While the Titans and the Jets (nee Titans) paid homage to the AFL with their throwback unis, it was nice of the Seahawks to honor the World League of American Football and the Thunder.

Vikings, Bills lock up top corners

The Vikings recently came to terms with an established veteran player (no, not that veteran). Antoine Winfield, while small in stature, packs a punch. When I worked at the Packers, I vividly remember our offensive coordinators and players such as Donald Driver and Greg Jennings telling me that the offense game-planned around Winfield. Plays were designed with him in mind.

I remember when Winfield was a free agent in 2004 and was being wooed by the Jets at their facility when he was sneaked onto a private plane that brought him to Minnesota to sign a six-year, $40-million contract with the Vikings. Free agency can be like the Wild West, and the Jets were furious with Winfield’s agent and the Vikings.

The Vikings have now torn up that contract and replaced it with a five-year extension (four new years) worth a total of $35 million.

As Winfield was due to make $6M in 2009, the amount of “new money” in the contract is $29M over four years, an APY (average per year) of $7.25M.

There’s $16M guaranteed in salary rather than bonus, a tactic increasingly employed by teams with favorable cap situations to not mortgage any future cap costs from prorated bonus amortization. It’s a solid and prudent way to manage contracts that several teams are now using for veteran extensions and large free-agent contracts.

In Buffalo, the team Winfield left for the Vikings five years ago, the Bills brought Terrence McGee under contract in the last year of his deal. McGee has been the Bills’ top corner since the departure of Nate Clements to the 49ers in free agency.

McGee signed a five-year deal — four new years — worth a total of $27M. Since McGee was scheduled to make $3M this season and that amount is not changed with the new deal, the “new money” in the deal is $24M, and APY of $6M. There’s $9M in guaranteed dollars in the form of a $3M signing bonus and a $6M roster bonus in March 2010.

Winfield and McGee were in the final years of their contracts and would have been 2010 UFAs (Unrestricted Free Agents), even though the requirement for free agency will be six years rather than four without a salary cap. Although they didn’t receive the level of last year’s extensions that the Giants’ Corey Webster ($43M, with $20M guaranteed) or the Panthers’ Chris Gamble ($50M, with $23M guaranteed) did, the deals got done, and the uncertainty of 2010 is moot for the top corners in Minnesota and Buffalo.

An upside to trading Crabtree?

I’ve received a lot of questions about trading the rights to Michael Crabtree, but the reality is that the 49ers want to sign him and have been trying since they made him an aggressive offer in May. What would trading Crabtree (who is now outside of Orlando with his trainer and best friend) bring the 49ers?

(1) A 2010 first-round draft choice? They already have two and don’t want another with a significant investment expected for a new stadium.

(2) An established veteran player? Another expensive option unless they “rent” the player like Richard Seymour across the bay.

(3) Making a statement to Crabtree and agent Eugene Parker? They have already offered a generous contract for the slot and will not increasing their offer.

They’ll sign him, although it is now maddening.

Happy Yom Kippur to our Jewish readers. Feel free to pass along some comments for me to read to take my mind off fasting for the day.

Follow me on Twitter: adbrandt

Possible Crabtree scenarios

In our continuing effort to bring readers inside the negotiations between Michael Crabtree and the 49ers — through columns, podcast and videocasts – we’re trying to uncover the issues, risks and rewards for both sides. Ultimately, the only way this standoff will end is if there are true and significant consequences to not having a negotiated agreement, meaning that one side sees that the risks of their actions will outweigh the rewards. We haven’t reached that point yet, but it may be coming soon.

One below-the-radar aspect of the longest stalemate in the NFL in recent years is the potential salary cap (specifically, rookie salary cap) and cash flow aspect of Crabtree’s decision-making.

Due to the operation and rigid rules of the NFL’s rookie pool, there may be potential pitfalls in waiting until next year for the Crabtree camp. Many assume that a contract can be structured in any way it needs to be as a result of negotiations. That may not be the case if this lasts into next year. Although 2010 may not have an overall salary cap, the rookie pool system is certainly expected to operate as it has.

Here are a few scenarios that could transpire with Crabtree:

(1) Crabtree agrees to a five-year contract with the 49ers prior to Nov. 17 — the deadline for him to play this season — and is eligible to play upon being activated.

If this happens, the 49ers will use their remaining allocated 2009 rookie pool room –they are the only team that has not used the vast majority of its rookie pool — to structure a contract and build the types of guarantees necessary to fit in this part of the round.

Yet to be discussed is the amount of downside Crabtree has in the loss of game checks for the weeks missed and the amount of upside — escalators and incentives — allocated to year one of the contract, a year in which Crabtree is unlikely to produce much. Certainly, Crabtree and his agent, Eugene Parker, have discussed this option and are aware and comfortable with the risks they’re taking at this point by rejecting the 49ers’ current proposals.

Despite the present impasse, I still think this is the most likely result.

(2) Crabtree does not sign with the 49ers prior to Nov. 17 and is forced — by NFL rule — to sit out the 2009 season. His rights are then traded between March 1, 2010, and the week prior to the 2010 draft in late April.

The team acquiring his rights would then have to negotiate a contract for him using 2010 rookie pool money, although it will have no separate allocation of rookie pool money to use on Crabtree.

To explain further, teams are assigned a rookie pool number based on their selections in the corresponding draft. For undrafted rookies — such as Crabtree in this scenario — any amounts of bonus or salary over the minimum ($325,000 in 2010) will count toward the pool.

The rookie pool number that the team acquiring Crabtree will be assigned following the 2010 draft will not include an allocation for Crabtree because he will not be a 2010 draft selection. In other words, while in this scenario Crabtree would be a 2010 rookie signing, he would be a signing that is separate and apart from the 2010 rookie class – but for cap purposes, he would have to be included and factored into that rookie pool. Thus, as I explain below, structuring a contract with appropriate guarantees will be a huge challenge.

(3) Crabtree does not sign with the 49ers before Nov. 17 and is forced to sit out the season. He is also not traded prior to the 2010 NFL Draft, enters the draft and is taken at some point (our own Wes Bunting projects that if a few of the top junior receivers come out, he could be as low as the fifth or sixth receiver taken, as heard in our podcast today).

The team that drafts Crabtree would then be assigned a rookie pool number for Crabtree based on his selection and would pay him accordingly. He would then have a pool number that, unlike the second scenario above, would be part of the rookie pool for the team that drafts him, with an appropriate slot selection suggested by the league.

Here’s the problem with the latter two scenarios.

Rookie contracts are difficult enough to structure due to the rookie pool even without these complications. Due to the cap limitations on rookie contracts, a large amount of compensation is in the form of NLTBE (Not Likely To Be Earned) incentives and option bonuses — all money not counting against the rookie pool — rather than signing bonus and salaries.

In the scenarios above, there is significant money with some risk and some cash flow problems for Crabtree. More of the “guaranteed” money would have to be in the form of a year two option bonus and NLTBE incentives that would be earned upon achieving minimum performance standards.

From Crabtree’s vantage point, there is risk in achieving those minimum standards this year due to his late arrival, but — if he signs with the 49ers — he can still structure a deal with the majority of the compensation in bonus money. The ability to do so becomes problematic if this goes into next year.

Crabtree could guarantee future salaries to try to build the kind of guarantee levels that they are looking for, but the cash flow would not be beneficial at all.

In the event Crabtree is part of the 2010 rookie pool, he would not earn his option bonus — the bulk of the bonus money in the contract — until 2011. Not only is that cash flow a year later than if he were to sign this year, but 2011 is an unknown now in the NFL. Teams and players are starting to prepare for the possibility of a lockout.

Further, more and more teams are structuring contracts where the NLTBE incentives is not paid as an incentive at the end of the season in which it was earned; rather, it is paid as a roster bonus the following year. This means that even if Crabtree earns the one-time incentive in his first year of 2010 — although many rookies do not — he would not be eligible for payment until March of 2011, a year in which football and everything that goes with it is potentially at risk due to a lockout.

Having laid out these risks, I do know from long experience that Eugene Parker is as professional and learned as they come. I’m sure he has thought through these scenarios and has explained everything to Crabtree. Parker may believe that waiting a year for a contract that far exceeds the one presently being offered is a better option. There is obviously risk associated with that since that contract is not a certainty.

Decisions like this are about risk and reward. I trust that Parker and the union have explained to Crabtree what all the outcomes look like, in the event he continues to roll the dice. As you can tell from reading this post, it’s a bit complicated and technical to understand but important to know nonetheless.

We’ll continue to try and be the source for all things Crabtree.

Follow me on Twitter: adbrandt

Dollars and $ense Video Report

As we continue to try and offer readers our best insights in the written word, we are also moving into the audio and video side of things as well, through our podcasts and our video casts.

Here’s my first take at some NFP video through our partnership with

In what will be a weekly segment in this spaced entitled “Dollars and $ense”, I will look inside the current topics in the football world and offer some in-depth analysis and opinion on the news.

This first installment is mostly about — who else — Michael Crabtree and his prolonged absence from the 49ers and the NFL. I talk about the sticking points, the strategies and the possible resolutions to what seems like a story with no ending.

Enjoy the video and my talking into a computer screen….

Wednesday whys: Does Crabtree have alternatives?

Why isn’t it surprising that the 49ers are alleging tampering by other teams with Michael Crabtree?

Unlike free agents who have options, a draft choice like Crabtree has no alternative other than to play for the team that selects him. Yes, a team can trade the player’s rights up until the now-moot deadline of Aug. 14, but the player’s rights are always controlled by the drafting team, unlike free agency, when all bets are off the table when the clock strikes midnight in late February.

Crabtree’s only alternative to signing a contract the 49ers is to hope the team trades his rights in March or wait until next the 2010 NFL Draft, a strategy that many have thought to be a career-killer. Why, one would reasonably ask, would a player turn down guaranteed money in the $17-million range and an APY (average per year) of over $4 million to roll the dice on an uncertain future? The most likely answer is that another team has intimated in subtle (or not-so-subtle) terms that if Crabtree takes that alternative, he will not regret it financially.

I have no knowledge that this has happened with Crabtree (although NFL Network’s Deion Sanders seems to). I do know that there were a couple of teams picking ahead of the 49ers in the draft that had intense internal debates while on the clock about taking Crabtree or taking the player they eventually took. It makes sense that the executives or scouts who were standing on the table for Crabtree in April would still love to have him. And I also know that there were a couple of teams that tried in vain to secure Crabtree’s rights prior to Aug. 14. Those trade discussions were rebuffed by the 49ers. They want the player they drafted at the 10th pick. That’s the asset they want, not another draft choice or player.

The 49ers, who were disciplined with a forfeited draft choice for tampering with Bears linebacker Lance Briggs in 2007, apparently have suspicions about other clubs’ communication with Crabtree and agent Eugene Parker. Their feeling is that Crabtree’s reluctance to take a “slotted deal” from the 49ers is not simply a function of protracted negotiations; there may more issues in play relating to other alternatives he has or thinks he might have.

The league will investigate; we will continue to follow.

Why, in addition to other teams possibly being involved with Crabtree, might there also be other agents involved?

The agent business, a business I was in for 10 years, doesn’t exactly have the cleanest reputation. Players are constantly being recruited by agents; the fact they’re already being represented is secondary. Ten years ago, I lost Ricky Williams to Master P after two years of spending every other week in Austin, Texas, recruiting and working with him.

As we reported today, Crabtree is still being recruited, with a certain agent group in particular trying to whisper in his ear with promises of getting him what he wants with the 49ers and trading on a strong relationship with the team. Crabtree will not be leaving Parker, to the chagrin of competing agents, but that won’t stop them from trying.

As for Crabtree, he’s hidden away in a remote location with a trainer, waiting for the smoke to clear.

Why are the NFL Players Association and Players, Inc. raising their dues for each player from $10,000 to $15,000?

The union is having its players start to stockpile funds in case of a protracted conflict with management in 18 months. This is the first concerted step from the players’ side showing that the specter of the NFL locking them out when the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the 2010 season is not fiction. It’s not reality yet, but the union is taking concrete steps to prepare.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the debate, the NFL has been writing its internal contracts to buffer itself from certain financial commitments. Although no club has put “lockout language” in any player contracts, we are now seeing it in the contracts of front office executives and coaches. The language lessens or voids the obligation of the team to continue payroll payments to football operations staff in the event there is no football. Again, it’s another indicator that a lockout in 2011 is possible.

The league has been advising clubs about financial protections for 2011 for some time, moves that are precautionary and preparatory at this point.

Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith have been negotiating largely in the media and not with each other. However, there does appear to be some thaw occurring, with a joint announcement affirming the strength of the CBA’s testing policy in light of the Williams case in Minnesota and a bargaining meeting scheduled for Tuesday that could flesh out some things.

Why was the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pointing out how much money the team has spent on contracts with players?

The Bucs are the overwhelming league leader in salary-cap room, weighing in with $29 million of space, far ahead of the next teams – the Packers ($18M), the Chiefs ($16M) and the Bears and Browns($15M). They’ve been trying to find ways to use their ample cap room, even structuring the contract of first-round pick Josh Freeman to take a 2009 cap reallocation charge of $6.2M, a hit in addition to their rookie pool charge. They were one of only two teams in the league (the Chiefs being the other) to take such a charge.

General manager Mark Dominik, defending the large amount of cap room, responded to concerns from fans and media in a recent article, saying, “Jeff Faine became the highest-paid center in the league. We went after Derrick Ward and made him the highest-paid free-agent running back. Kellen Winslow set a new bar for tight ends. Franchising Antonio Bryant wasn’t a low number. We paid Luke McCown a signing bonus and still traded him because we felt it was in the best interests of the Buccaneers.”

Dominik’s comments are interesting because if the Buccaneers were not flush with cap room and very low in the league in payroll this season, there would be criticism of these deals and the commitments made to these players. Yet Dominik is putting these deals out there front and center to show the franchise’s commitment to winning, albeit with deals that may turn out to be questionable uses of their resources.

To be clear, though, the Bucs are not in danger of failing to spend to the required minimum cap figure in the NFL this season, an amount of $109M. That number was set based off the actual 2009 NFL cap of $123M. The Bucs, however, brought forward so much cap into this year that their adjusted cap was around $148M. This is how they can be $30M under the cap yet still spend the cap minimum.

Another example of how cap spending and cash spending in the NFL can be dramatically different.

And for my Pet Peeve Why of the Week:

Why do players such as Nick Barnett of the Packers and Robert Henson of the Redskins tweet angry messages to fans after receiving negative feedback?

I know Nick well and became close to him in Green Bay. I always tried to get him to put a filter on his thoughts before they came out in spoken word or print (or tweet). As for Henson, a sixth-round pick of the Redskins, he has become known for his Twittering more than his play, not a good way to start a career. Tweeting, Facebooking or emailing are like ringing a doorbell; once rung, you can’t un-ring it. It’s a lesson for all of us before hitting send.

< p>Join me for a chat today at 3:30 p.m. to talk about Crabtree and many more topics.

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Are the sharks circling Crabtree?

Any time a blue-chip player like Michael Crabtree commits to an agent, you’ll find several other agents who will say, “I almost had him. I was his second choice.”

It now appears that at least one other agent group is circling in the water like sharks smelling blood, hoping Crabtree will change his mind about his agent, Eugene Parker, however unlikely that may be.

A reliable source in the agent community has told me that that at least one other agent has reached out to Crabtree to see if he can “offer any assistance” to end the stalemate with the 49ers.

Any time a player is having tough time with a negotiation, you can almost count on other agents reaching out to him, wanting to play the role of white knight. The agents assume very little risk in making this move because the player doesn’t want to report him to his current agent or the NFL Players Association. The player simply doesn’t want to go through the hassle of being part of an intense grievance process and being looked upon by his peers and teammates — some of whom may be working with the soliciting agent — as a snitch.

During the recruiting process, a losing agent may have built a great relationship with the player, his family or even his best friend. I can virtually guarantee you that some calls and texts have been fired in the direction of Crabtree and his people by these agents.

I’ve heard that there’s a great deal of depth and strength in the relationship between Parker and Crabtree. But I also know that as time lapses and the stakes mount, their relationship will be tested. Eugene will and has become an easy target for other agents because of this particular impasse. Regardless of the strategy, philosophy and motivations of the Crabtree-Parker camp, agents will spin this holdout on the recruiting trail as an ill-advised move orchestrated solely by Parker.

From a public relations standpoint, Crabtree — if he listens to the whispers and opts to make a change — can fire Parker and use him as a scapegoat, placing the entirety of the blame for the stalemate on the agent. But Eugene is no fool; he knows this is a possibility, which leads me to believe the holdout might be driven by the player.

I don’t know Parker personally, but I know of his reputation, his history and his philosophy. He’s known as a tough but fair negotiator and an architect. He’s all about the art of the deal. He doesn’t play concierge like other high-profile agents. He’s not seeking fame. He simply focuses his attention on putting together superior deals without worrying about other agents, the media or next year’s recruiting class. He’s a seasoned and cerebral pro who’s made millions of dollars for himself and his clients.

He’s also a cool character, so if the sharks indeed are circling, he’ll remain calm and stick to his plan.

Follow me on Twitter: jackbechta

Agent vlog: Ravens come to town

For those who watched last week’s video blog, Part 1 and Part 2, “On the Road”, I have added a home weekend component as well.

As an NFL agent, it pays to live in a city that has an NFL team. I make it a point to personally see each of my clients play a game, home or away.

Any time one of my clients is playing against the Chargers in San Diego, I mark my calendar and plan on staying at home. The routine for me and most agents is to meet the player at his hotel and grab some dinner. If there’s time, I may get them to my house for a home-cooked meal and show them around town if they’ve never seen the city or beaches.

This past weekend, it was defensive tackle Kelly Gregg of the Ravens. I hope you enjoy another peek into the weekly life of an NFL agent.

More on Crabtree and 49ers

Hopefully, my look inside the 49ers-Michael Crabtree negotiations on Friday proved the point that it’s not as simple as “slotting the pick” and filling in the numbers accordingly. This one is complicated for a few reasons, some of which we discussed then.

In negotiating the contract for Jeremy Maclin, the wide receiver taken after Crabtree in the first round (albeit nine picks later), one of the difficulties was that the selection was sandwiched in the first round by players who were defensive linemen, offensive linemen, a tight end, a quarterback, etc. Should that matter, you ask? For the purposes of base contract and guaranteed money, not really. The player is picked where he’s picked; it’s of no import — except for a quarterback — what position he plays.

The place it matters is upside, i.e., escalators. It’s challenging to equate the level of difficulty of the escalator to players in entirely different positions where statistical accomplishments — very important to a wide receiver — are largely irrelevant, save for sacks. The primary escalation marker for many positions is playing time, not directly relevant to a receiver.

Similar challenges have been present in the Crabtree drama. Directly above him are linemen B.J. Raji of the Packers and Eugene Monroe of the Jaguars, whose upside is based primarily on playing time. Above those picks is the much-discussed Darrius Heyward-Bey deal with the Raiders, whose contract the Crabtree camp is trying hard to latch on to for obvious reasons. Although it will be extremely difficult to approach the hard numbers of the Heyward-Bey contract, it’s the escalator that Crabtree’s camp argues should be the apples-to-apples comparison.

Heyward-Bey’s contract has a base value of $38 million, almost $16 million more than the pick above Crabtree, Raji at $22M. While Raji has been the marker used by the 49ers — a reasonable data point for both sides — Heyward-Bey has been a focal point for the other side.

Heyward Bey’s contract value goes to nearly $41M for 60 catches one time in his first four years; it escalates to over $43M for 60 catches twice. Crabtree has taken notice. While he makes the argument that this contract should be a key data point because of the position the players play, especially regarding upside, the 49ers point to the fact that the deal is three picks away, buffered by two deals in between. Another dynamic appears to be one first written about by Mike Sando of ESPN and discussed here at the NFP by my colleague Brad Biggs: the lack of production of wide receivers in offenses run by 49ers coordinator Jimmy Raye. Just as opponents have scouting reports on whom they’re playing, agents have scouting reports on philosophies of coordinators that affect the earning potential of clients. As Sando and Biggs pointed out, in Raye’s 12 previous seasons as an offensive coordinator, only twice has a wide receiver reached 1,000 yards, and only twice has a wide receiver had more than 64 receptions. To put that in perspective, 22 receivers had more than 1,000 yards last season and 30 had more than 64 receptions.

In the Maclin negotiation, the concern about escalators from the Maclin camp was that even though the Eagles pass as much as any team in the league, they spread the ball around, lessening the chances for dramatic impact of the escalators. In the case of Crabtree, the concern is simply the run-oriented style of attack being used by the 49ers.

Like Maclin, the Crabtree talks are complicated by factors beyond the base contract and the guarantee. Upside is key to any contract, especially first-round contracts. And slotting is in play here, but slotting against whom? The picks next to Crabtree, or the wide receiver three picks away? The drama continues.

Yet another complicating factor is what may have been said to Crabtree about his contractual value in the event he sits out this season and enters the 2010 draft. While most feel he would be making a huge financial mistake sitting out this year, it’s something no one can be sure of. Now reports have surfaced that tampering may have been a factor in the negotiations and has been alleged by the 49ers. This is yet another twist to this saga.

With the games on the field beginning, it hasn’t stopped the action off the field in front offices and the business of football. Here are some recent moves that have been engineered over the past couple of weeks around the league:Arizona
Adrian Wilson converted $3M of his $8.5M salary into signing bonus, prorated for salary cap purposes, to lower his present cap charge while raising his future cap amounts.
To be clear, let’s dispel two myths about this contract: (1) that Wilson sacrificed money to help the team, and (2) that this restructure foreshadows a pending contract extension for Anquan Boldin.

Wilson’s restructure simply gives the Cardinals breathing room for the season, not additional resources to address his deal. As with the earlier Larry Fitzgerald restructure by the Cardinals, they’re worried about cap and cash flow right now, not a big new contract for Boldin.

New Orleans
Drew Brees restructured his contract to provide the Saints with some much-needed cap relief, converting over half of his $9.8M salary into signing bonus. He’ll make the same amounts over the next three years and have the same cash flow while giving the Saints $3.4M of additional cap room this year, putting them at $5.5M of available room to last the season.

A.J. Feeley received $50,000 to sign. The only team in the NFL under the Mendoza line of $1M of Cap room, look for the Panthers to try to restructure a contract or two soon since we’re in a season where all earned incentives are going to count on the cap when earned — unlike previous years — due to next year being uncapped.

Jeff Garcia also received $50,000 to sign and a two-game guarantee of salary. The amount is moot, however, because Garcia, as a vested veteran, is guaranteed at least one-quarter of the 10-year minimum salary, an amount worth approximately $211,000.

Hank Baskett, released by the Eagles and unclaimed due to his $1.545-million salary (the restricted free-agent tender for the second-round draft compensation) was given a $100,000 bonus to sign with the Colts after being pursued by the Rams and a couple of other teams.

And here are some players who took pay cuts prior to the start of the season, avoiding release by their teams:

– Sean Jones, Eagles
– Ryan Denney, Bills
– Cornell Green and Paul McQuistan, Raiders
– Jamar Nesbit, Saints.

All of these reductions were in the $500,000 range. The players made the decision that, in this economy, it’s better to be working at a reduced rate than maybe not working at all.

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On the Road, Part 2

This past week, I took to the road and made stops to see my clients in Pittsburgh and Cleveland as the NFL season kicked off—and I put it all on video for you.

Join me as I give you an inside look into the life of an agent during an NFL weekend: a behind the scenes look at the business from a first person point of view—where you can experience the daily grind along with me. Enjoy.

Follow me on Twitter: jackbechta

On the Road, Part 1

This past week, I took to the road and made stops to see my clients in Pittsburgh and Cleveland as the NFL season kicked off—and I put it all on video for you.

Join me as I give you an inside look into the life of an agent during an NFL weekend: a behind the scenes look at the business from a first person point of view—where you can experience the daily grind along with me. Enjoy.

Follow me on Twitter: jackbechta