“I’ll think about it.”
“Maybe, but I can’t make any promises.”
“All right, fine. Let’s get this over with.”
If the countdown to NFL training camp doesn’t remind NFL front office executives of the days leading up to high school prom, then I don’t know what does.
Like your hesitant prom date, NFL rookies are becoming more and more likely to hold out for a better offer, even if that means going stag through training camp.
Where to begin?
As if your invitation by means of a first round selection weren’t flattering enough, you’ve got to make your NFL rookie feel “special".
So take them out on the town and wine and dine them at an extravagant restaurant (where you’ll undoubtedly be expected to tell them how good they look…on tape).
Once you fulfill your duties as ego masseuse, you must get down on one knee and beg. Nothing says “I want you” like a thousand late night voicemails to your rookie’s agent.
Throw in a mix-tape or two and you’re in business.
“I promise, if you sign with me, you’ll be my one and only [insert positional name].
Forget [insert high-priced free agent the team may or may not be targeting] and [insert soon to be released NFL veteran], you are my man.”
Placed in the characteristically female role of playing hard to get, it’s no wonder these first round draft picks receive appropriately emasculating labels such as “divas”.
Following the (un)pleasantries of seeing grown men beg, your NFL rookie will provide you the “honor” of buying their ticket to the big dance.
Like prom, you’ll be paying in advance for services you undeniably expect, yet will likely never receive.
In the end, it’ll all work out…for better or for worse.
After all, no one wants to be “that rookie” who thinks he’s above the team, just as no one wants to be that girl without a date.
Will this dance be a sign of great things to come? Will your NFL organization be one of the lucky few to marry their rookie sweetheart?
Time will tell. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, prom dates and first round draft picks rarely ever “make it”.
As the one-contract-stand comes to an end, your first round selection will have a similar four letter “b” word to be remembered for years down the road.
The San Francisco 49ers will undoubtedly do a similar dance before the big dance.
The question is: will Michael Crabtree accept the 49ers’ advances in time for training camp?
The following is a breakdown of five reasons that 49er fans can expect to see Michael Crabtree at 49er training camp.
While the 49ers may not have the best first round draft record as of late, lack of training camp repetitions has never been the culprit.
To their credit, Scott McCloughan’s administration has yet to experience a training camp holdout under their four year tenure.
This fact alone serves as quite the off-season accomplishment, considering that in four seasons the 49ers have selected first overall, sixth overall, and have had two first round picks in two consecutive drafts.
As if the 49ers’ contractual track record were not reason enough to believe, the 49ers are ahead of schedule in signing the rest of the 2009 NFL draft class.
Having signed Scott McKillop, Bear Pascoe, Curtis Taylor, and Ricky Jean-Francois all before the month of June, San Francisco is one of the league leaders in rookies under contract.
With just three rookies in Nate Davis, Glenn Coffee, and Michael Crabtree left to go, the 49ers will have all the time in the world to get the former Red Raider wide receiver signed for.
After a life of NFL contract negotiation, a career of hostage negotiation will seem like retirement.
Fortunately for San Francisco, Paraag Marathe, the 49ers’ Vice President of Football Operations, is well-versed in the art of paying out King’s ransoms with minimal salary cap impact.
Thanks to Marathe’s shrewd contractual negotiations with former high-priced free agent additions (see: Jonas Jennings, Nate Clements, Michael Lewis, Justin Smith), the 49ers are among the league leaders with $27 million in free salary cap space.
With a free agent market that’s currently bare of impact playmakers, and all critical 49er athletes under contract for the immediate future, the 49ers will have plenty of ammunition in place to ensure that Crabtree can afford a lifetime’s supply of $5 foot longs (reference to Crabtree’s recent lucrative Subway deal, which will only further reduce his necessity for a big-time NFL contract).
Although all first round draft picks are guaranteed a handsome wage, the contracts of top five selections are particularly jaw-dropping. This is especially true with quarterbacks.
Matthew Stafford, the draft’s first overall selection, had his six year $72 million contract agreed to and signed before the 2009 draft even began.
This helped lead to another speedy signing within the top five.
As of June 10th, Mark Sanchez, the other top five quarterback selection, had agreed to a five year $60 million deal (adjusted for unlikely attainable incentives, this contract is more like five years, $50.5 million).
These high-priced selections are particularly important as their salary inflation rates, relative to the prior draft’s comparable contracts, serve as a relevant model for the rest of the rookie pool.
With the high-priced contracts of the draft’s biggest cash cows in place, the remainder of the first round riff raft can structure their contracts accordingly (while adjusting to draft and playing position), making for an expedited negotiation process.
NFL rookie contracts are about as reasonable as California divorce laws.
To be fair, in buying tickets and tuning in our television sets, we as Capitalism-abiding, football-crazed Americans enable these outrageous contracts.
The key word is “relative”.
Relative to the inflation rate of past NFL contracts, the 2009 NFL rookie pool appears to be an affordable bunch.
While first overall pick Matthew Stafford did receive a heftier sum of guaranteed money, his six-year $72 million contract was identical to 2008’s third overall selection Matt Ryan.
This is quite the bargain considering the recent trends of salary inflation around the NFL.
In 2005, first overall pick Alex Smith received a mind-boggling six year $49.5 million contract.
Just two years later, in 2007, JaMarcus Russell received a six year $60.1 million reward as the first overall draft selection. That was a 20 percent wage increase over a two-year span.
In spite of such historic trends of inflation, the current first round contracts reflect a sign of deflation. Perhaps this is a sign of the NFL’s adaptation to the bearish economic climate.
Regardless of the reason, this trend bodes well for the 49ers’ contractual bargaining power.
Having been in a boot or physical rehabilitation since the end of his collegiate season, Crabtree has to be itching (STD pun intended) to get back on the playing field.
Word out of training camp is that Crabtree has been anxious to get involved in OTA activities…a little too anxious.
Apparently Head Coach Mike Singletary gave Crabtree a “talking to” following his non-training staff permitted running along the 49er sidelines.
As Singletary later stated, this incident left Crabtree “teary eyed”.
Such a reaction should sit well with 49er fans who may have otherwise questioned his love of football.
As evidenced by his OTA attendance and eagerness to get involved, it’s unlikely that Crabtree will willingly add any additional obstacles (like a contract) between him and the 49er practice field.