Crabtree Standoff: Calm Before the Storm

Matt MCorrespondent IAugust 26, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 15:  (L-R) Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps NBA player Blake Griffin and NFL player Michael Crabtree arrive at the 2009 ESPY Awards held at Nokia Theatre LA Live on July 15, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The 17th annual ESPYs will air on Sunday, July 19 at 9PM ET on ESPN.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for ESPY)

The Michael Crabtree holdout has reached Day 30 (since the rookie report date), Day 28 (since the veteran report date), and Day 27 (since the start of training camp practices)...but who’s counting?

Needless to say, red numbered 15 jerseys are more likely to be spotted on pawn shop shelves than at a 49er sporting event these days.

So what really has happened over the past 720 hours since the 49ers’ report date?

The unsigned dotted line resting at the bottom of the 49ers’ “fair”, proposed contract would suggest nothing. 

The threats made by Crabtree’s ill-advised “advisors” suggest Crabtree’s heading for the 2010 NFL Draft… barring a draft-slot shattering miracle of course.

The 49er fan-base suggests that Eugene Parker is to blame for the contract impasse, as he is holding out in an effort inspired by money and the notoriety that draft-slot busting would bring.

In a latest development, Eugene Parker has sidestepped the finger of blame by accusing his client for being the responsible party of stalled negotiations.

As discussed in league circles, Michael Crabtree (the tenth overall pick) has personally refused to sign for anything less than what number seventh overall pick Darrius Heyward-Bey agreed to.  This was an amount Crabtree’s representatives described as “fair market value”. 

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Maybe Texas Tech doesn’t teach economics, or maybe the classes filled up before a “market” conscious Crabtree could enroll. Whatever the reason, Michael Crabtree apparently has no concept of the principles of supply and demand.  After all, nowhere else are these NFL market forces more prevalent than in the actual NFL Draft (sorry Mel Kiper).

Calling Michael Crabtree’s demands a violation of the unwritten rules of draft slotting, would be like calling the actions of Enron executives a violation of Boy Scout’s honor.  Crabtree’s demands are a violation of the NFL, the American economy, and wage-laws as we know it. 

To those who have been living under a rock in Michael Crabtree’s mock reality, the American economy is about as bear as a Goldilocks tale.  In an effort to adjust to the harsh economic realities, the NFL has cut wages and laid off over 15 percent of its workforce.  Even the big, bad Roger Goodell wasn’t safe from a 20-25 percent wage reduction

Beyond being an unprofessional act of throwing one’s client under the proverbial bus, Parker’s recent “whispers on the recruiting trail” have now placed media and fan-base pressure directly at the pressure point of these negotiations...Michael Crabtree.

No longer can Crabtree hide behind Parker, forcing his agent’s reputation to play the role of media whipping boy. 

Sooner or later Crabtree is going to realize that holding out to get paid like a top five pick, won’t make him a top five pick. 

With each day he alienates himself further from the organization, teammates, and fan-base.  With each week he misses out on an NFL paycheck.  Waiting until the 2010 draft will get him paid like a second round pick (where he will likely fall to). 

Some may contest that Crabtree could afford to take the hit to his cash flows following a lucrative endorsement deal with both Subway and Nike. 

Such an argument only provides further evidence as to the copious amounts money that Crabtree is set to lose out on.  In just about any sports endorsement deal lies a clause that states the athlete must be on an active roster in their respective league (for Crabtree, this being the NFL).  Following the Michael Vick saga, you can just about count on it. 

Current endorsements aside, phone calls regarding future endorsements will certainly cease for the unemployed and disliked wide receiver.  With a hefty NFL contract and endorsement money on the line, the cash hungry Crabtree may literally starve in his year away from the lucrative world of the NFL.

The sooner he realizes this, the sooner his public image and income can begin their ascent.

What needs to happen at this point is the 49ers should provide an escape plan for the cornered Crabtree and Parker.  A contract that wouldn’t backfire on their end, but also make Crabtree and Parker look like they at least negotiated for something (don’t force them to swallow money and pride, they’ll likely choke). 

They must reach a “compromise.” 

Offer Michael Crabtree a contract sum exceeding Darrius Heyward-Bey’s, with guaranteed money of the tenth selection and contract incentives that can pay him as high as a top three pick. 

Find a cash based valuation of wide receiver performance and offer it in incentives (ex. a Pro Bowl selection/1,000 yards receiving season will inflate his contract to $8 million/year in that given year).  This way he’s signed, and unlikely to holdout in the case of him outperforming his contract.

If he never pans out to a number one wide receiver by year four, then simply release him and his back-loaded, non-guaranteed contract.   It’s better than never signing him at all.

Although such contractual negotiation has likely taken place (with Crabtree’s camp responding by sending a headless 49er front office executive galloping into 4949 Centennial Blvd. on horseback), recent developments and a realization of reality may call for a change of heart.

When asked if Crabtree may sign by the end of this week, Scott McCloughan responded that he feels good that “Crabtree will sign sooner rather than later”.

For the sake of my home AND away Michael Crabtree jersey investment, let’s hope so.

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