Jacksonville Jaguars' Eugene Monroe Should Take a History Lesson
This is the time of year in the NFL when teams send the players off to rest and prepare for training camp. It is the stretch on the calendar where endless speculation fills the void left by little in the way of actual news.
To fill that empty space, fans enter what is referred to as "hand wringing season."
The premise of this particular season is that fans focus on their favorite team, speculating about when they will get their rookie draft class signed.
They speculate endlessly over how much each player will get, and how far their perspective team is willing to bend in order to get signatures on contracts.
It is no different in Jacksonville.
The musing began within a few days of the draft concluding, and it will continue until the last player signs.
Much of the concern this year swirls around first-round selection Eugene Monroe. Will he be in camp on time? Will he hold out and create problems? Should the team just up the ante and get the deal done to avoid a protracted absence?
There is an argument for getting a deal done quickly. The faster the two sides can come together, the more time the rookie offensive tackle will have to work with the team and develop his skills at the NFL level.
That is certainly a logical approach.
But, should the team deviate from their negotiating approaches and soften on fiscal responsibility in order to get the deal done sooner?
Not a chance.
For a small-market team dealing with a tight financial situation already, tossing aside the model they have used since Paul Vance, vice president and general counsel for the Jaguars, inherited a team in salary cap Hell would be ill-advised and completely illogical.
Under Vance, the Jaguars have been able to reverse a financial mess brought on by early abuse of the salary cap. The salary cap hole the team was in when he arrived in Jacksonville was bad enough that the team was forced to jettison many of their popular players in order to just get things moving in the right direction.
Poorly negotiated contracts and deals given to players that simply did not pan out devastated the Jaguars financially, forcing them to take a different tact once they regained control.
Since his arrival, Paul Vance has become a tactical negotiator, establishing a firm position for the team in all dealings. The team has been willing to take a stance when necessary in order to maintain their control over the salary cap.
That does not mean they are cheap. The Jaguars are willing to work with agents to assure that players are fairly compensated. But, the team is not going to overspend on a player for the sake of getting a deal done more quickly.
Last year, the Jaguars ran into a situation with Derrick Harvey involving the overall dollar amount and the term of the contract. Because the two sides could not come together quickly, the negotiations spilled over into training camp, and Harvey did not sign a deal until just before the season began.
His agent, Ken Kremer, was looking for a deal that was in line with the draft picks ahead of Harvey. That was understandable, considering the fact that the market had been thrown into complete chaos by the deal the New York Jets agreed to with defensive end Vernon Gholston. It blew the expected slotting out of the water.
In normal years, player contract values are loosely based upon what the player in the same draft position received the year prior. But there are always exceptions based upon the position the player plays. Quarterbacks traditionally receiver bigger contracts, so if a defensive end is drafted in the same spot that a quarterback was the year before, the deal will be adjusted accordingly.
Last year, the Jets handed Gholston a contract that would have been warranted for a player being selected in the top 5 with an incredible $21 million guaranteed. That reset the contracts for picks following Gholston in the mind of Ken Kremer.
The Jaguars had a different viewpoint. They were looking at the eighth pick in the 2007 draft to determine what they intended to use as their starting point.
They had good reason to use this as their starting point. The Atlanta Falcons selected Jamaal Anderson and signed him to a five-year contract that was just shy of $31 million with guarantees in the $15 million range.
This is where the Jaguars wanted to begin the negotiations.
Kremer had different ideas because the team had traded up to get Harvey. He felt that this maneuver warranted consideration in sweetening the pot for his client, since the team was willing to give up additional picks to grab Harvey.
He felt he had the necessary leverage to push the team into a deal more in line with the picks ahead of Harvey.
The Jaguars did indeed up the ante in the negotiation, but then sat on the offer as the calendar continued to roll.
By the time the deal was finalized, the Jaguars gave Harvey a deal much closer to their original offer than the one that his agent envisioned. Kremer blinked first.
Still, it was not a bad haul for the agent and his client, as Harvey's deal came in at $33.4 million, with half of that guaranteed.
Fans were rattled by the protracted talks. They wanted their draft pick in camp. There was little tolerance for the business side of the process, and they expressed their displeasure on call-in shows, on message boards, and in the media at every opportunity.
Still, the blame was divided equally.
With the Jaguars sitting in the same position with Eugene Monroe, the grumbling has already begun.
Fans want the team to soften on their stance to get a deal done quickly for the big offensive tackle. They do not want to see a drawn out contract negotiation impact the development of another player in the same manner it did with Harvey.
The Jaguars have been formulaic in the approach they have taken, and they will not be swayed by the opinion of fans. It is always going to be about the bottom line for the team, and the deal that is finally signed will be more to the liking of the team regardless of how long it may take.
The lesson learned from the Harvey negotiations is simple enough: The Jaguars' front office will not be pressured by what is happening ahead of or behind them with players drafted. Their only focus will be on what was spent last year in relation to the draft position they are in currently.
Since they know this number intimately, it should be simple enough to determine what they plan to offer.
No matter what, Monroe will wind up a very wealthy man. He will wind up leaving the table with somewhere in the range of $20 million in guaranteed money in his pocket. Whether he is willing to hold out to make a point over a few extra dollars remains to be seen.
If his agent does decide to push back, he will not have leverage in demanding too much from the Jaguars.
They have an insurance policy to assure this with Tra Thomas.
The Jaguars currently have a starting caliber left tackle on the roster. Should Monroe take the approach of holding out for more, he will discover very quickly the Jaguars will not bend.
The team will not be intimidated by the threat of a holdout. They will make their offer and wait to see what they get in return. No matter how long it takes, the negotiations will look very familiar to anyone watching this process last season.
Ultimately, it falls upon the shoulders of Monroe and his agent to reach some sort of agreement that everyone is happy with, and to do it as quickly as possible.
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