The 49ers Fine Print: Coffee Is Sealed, Crabtree Should Follow

D MillerCorrespondent IJuly 28, 2009

SANTA CLARA, CA - MAY 01:  Michael Crabtree #15 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on at practice during the 49ers Minicamp at their training facilities on May 1, 2009 in Santa Clara, California. Crabtree was the 49ers first round draft pick.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

The official start of 49ers' training camp is just two days away, and with all but their first-round pick signed and sealed, the new 49ers' regime appears to have their assignments in check.

With a new stadium being their most pressing long term need, the 49ers brass have very publicly made their case for a new state-of-the-art home 45 miles south in Santa Clara, while rather quietly signing 2009 draft picks 2-7 in sound fashion.

Their two highest profile picks not named Michael Crabtree both signed this week, starting with fifth-round project quarterback Nate Davis inking a four-year deal, and followed by running back Glen Coffee agreeing to a four-year contract of his own yesterday.

Having Coffee in camp from the start will be beneficial for both the team and the bruising rookie, who like all first-year players will need all the time available to adjust to an NFL practice schedule and learn the playbook. The 49ers' offense receives an instant boost by his presence, as they can immediately start grooming Coffee to relieve the workload of starter Frank Gore.

Of course, the attention remains where it has been since Draft Day weekend in April, on 10th overall pick Crabtree, who is quickly becoming the target of pondering critics that seem to think a long holdout is in store for him and the 49ers.

Is a holdout out of the question? Hardly, considering rookie holdouts are standard procedure in the NFL these days. Rumors that Crabtree is expecting a contract beyond the normal scope of a double-digit pick lend some credibility to the concerns as well.

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Then again, seeing as there's about seven other franchises that are presently in the same boat, 49ers fans may want to ease their concerns for just a bit longer.

Aside from the two quarterbacks selected in the top ten this year--and we all know quarterbacks are handled differently anyway--no other top pick has come to terms yet this off season.

It's common practice that NFL rookies are awarded contracts based on their slots in the draft; in other words, agents and players wait to see how the cards fall for those drafted in front of them before deciding what they can reasonably expect for themselves.

Basically, St. Louis rookie tackle Jason Smith is on the clock, and hopefully once he gets a deal done the rest of the top 10 won't lag too far behind.

If Crabtree is indeed expecting to be paid like the top-five pick he was projected to be, that could obviously complicate matters. Over-paying players was standard operating procedure for the 49ers during the Mike Nolan era, but chances are the team will be taking a more hard-nosed stance in negotiations as they move forward.

This rumor--at this point attributed to un-named sources--that Crabtree is willing to live up to the diva rumors that plagued him prior to the draft, and saddle the team with a long holdout, has a certain amount of plausibility depending on which impression of Crabtree you choose to take.

We can view Crabtree in the diva light that was credited to Eric Mangini and the Cleveland Browns--rumors that prompted Texas Tech Head Coach Mike Leach to publicly and simultaneously lash out at Mangini and fiercely defend his former superstar.

We can buy into the belief that Crabtree is destined to bust because he supposedly comes from a gimmick system at Texas Tech that blessed him with inflated stats. Some argue that he lacks the size and speed to take over games at the pro level the way he did in college.

Or we can remember Crabtree for what he has already accomplished under local and national spotlights: Being a two-time Biletnikoff Award-winner as the nation's premiere wide receiver (in his only two seasons of college football), and being the injured rookie so anxious to return to the field that he was nearly reduced to tears after Coach Mike Singletary told him to limit his practice.

We can also remember that Patrick Willis didn't exactly sprint his signature to the dotted line prior to his rookie season, and no one's questioned his character in the entire time he's been with San Francisco.

There's no guarantee one way or the other how this situation will play out.

While seven of the other top-10 picks are casually waiting to sign their own rookie contracts, Crabtree deserves the kind of patience from fans that he showed as he fell out of the top five and landed in the laps of the 49ers.

He has a case for wanting better than number 10 pay--it's not his fault that the Raiders made a reach at seven, and in fact it became the 49ers' good fortune. However, the 49ers have their own case for not overpaying him.

In the end, I like the chances of both sides reaching an agreement that satisfies everyone.