The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

Ego's Beating Money

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As Mick Jagger wrote and sang "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find, you get what you need."

The third week of the NFL's 2009 regular season is now upon us and every 2009 member of the league's draft class is performing in some capacity for their respective teams with the exception of Michael Crabtree, the 10th selection of the San Francisco 49ers. Crabtree and his advisers are embroiled in a protracted contract dispute with the team which is preventing him from achieving his dreams, goals and potential. The "holdout" is also preventing Crabtree from setting himself and his family up for life financially and is not helping the 'Niners put their best possible team on the field. This is a shame for the player, the team, and the NFL and an expedited resolution is definitely required.

Crabtree is an outstanding football player. His college exploits are second to none; his talent rises to the level of a top ten draft selection and his potential is meteoric. He possesses all of the physical attributes to become one of the finest receivers, a potential pro bowl player and possibly even a Hall of Fame caliber star if he can compete and perform at his expected level for the next decade.

The draft is neither a science not an art. It is an educated crap shoot that plays out on national television every April. For every Barry Sanders, Joe Thomas, and Peyton Manning who not only perform to their anticipated draft day potential but exceed them, there are Ryan Leafs, Akili Smiths, Charlie Rogers, Tony Mandarichs and Robert Galleries. Players designated as "can't miss" talents who for any number of reasons (including too much hype, not enough character, injury, or poor judgment) fail to live up their draft status.

Reading the rhetoric from the Crabtree camp it sounds like the player wants to be paid where he thinks he should have been drafted, i.e. in the top five, and not the 10th pick where he was actually taken. It is incumbent upon every agent to try and achieve the maximum contract for their client but in doing so the agent must also keep in mind the bigger picture of the player's entire career. The conundrum for all representatives is to maximize the player's compensation and careers while minimizing missed playing experiences such as training camp, exhibition games and certainly real games.

The greatest contracts are the ones negotiated at the highest compensation level without the players missing any such time so the rookies can get in and play and then become veterans and achieve even greater financial rewards for their second contracts. The problem with the current Crabtree position is that it makes for a solid negotiating position in June, July and possibly August and has in the past worked for a few players to achieve better than average rookie contracts. However, once pre-season exhibition games turn into regular season games, it becomes incumbent upon the player and his advisors to abandon the aspirations of pot at the end of the proverbial rainbow for the realities of playing the game and maximizing the player's career.

If the player sits out the entire year, has may happen here, the situation is usually more about ego than money. Assume for argument sake that the player weathers the storm and is able to go back into the draft. That despite the ugliness of a protracted hold out, unreasonable demands and pending tampering charges, that he is able to find a team willing to draft him higher in 2010 than he was drafted in 2009. That he is able to find a team willing to pay him more than he was offered by the 49ers, ultimately an amount the ego (erroneously) finds acceptable. Assume in 2010, he ends up signing a 5 year deal. The reality is that this would be akin to signing a deal in 2009 for 6 years (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014), with the first year worth zero since he will not receive a penny during his year of hold out. The only true way to assess the value of the contract he receives as a result of being drafted in 2010, is to average that contract over 6 years (instead of 5), applying zero dollars to the first year, since he originally entered the draft in 2009.

In this case, the ego will get the false satisfaction of receiving a contract valued higher than the one he was offered by the 49ers. But the truth of the matter is that he will be in a worse situation financially because he received zero dollars in 2009 (his true rookie year), and will have to wait an additional year before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If he would have accepted the 49ers' offer, he would have received a contract valued between the 9th and 11th pick. He would have signed on time and participated in training camp, would have been financially set for life and currently earning money on the large guarantee he would have in his bank account right now, would be in the good graces of his coaches, teammates, fans and media and his image would be untarnished and helped him to be in line for lucrative endorsement opportunities. He would also be playing a role and contributing to the success of a team that is currently 2-0 and on his way to completing his first year and would be scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2013. Given the 49ers' track record for extending their young star players, he would likely be in line for a contract extension earlier in 2011 or 2012 at the latest. All of that was sacrificed as a result of a close minded strategy designed and executed by the ego.

The Jagger principle of business plays directly into this situation at this time. That principle clearly and rhythmically states "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need." It has now come time for this unfortunate situation to end and for Crabtree to get what he needs -- a solid contract and the chance to make even more money for his second contract. As one noted and venerable NFL executive told me "In a few words...don't let ego get in the way of logic...get your ass on the field where you belong!"

By Peter Schaffer  |  September 23, 2009; 12:35 AM ET  | Category:  Draft , New York Jets , San Francisco 49ers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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History has shown us on more than one occassion that success in college does not guarantee success in the NFL. So lets not start working on sculpting the bust of Michael Crabtree for Canton just yet.

As I see it, there are two questions here. First, does Michael Crabtree want to play in San Francisco? Secondly, does San Francisco still want Michael Crabtree?

The answer to the second question is not a certain yes. We've seen recently the effects a bad attitude can have on a team. Primadona players are bad enough. Primadona players who haven't yet proven they belong in the league are worse. Crabtree could be a bigger detriment to the team than an asset.

Michael has gotten some really bad advice here. He will never be able to make up the millions that he's lost this year. Do he and his agents believe that by sitting out a year because he felt "disrespected" his draft value will increase next year? I don't think so. Now more than ever, teams are starting to look at character as well as talent. How many Packman Jones' do we need to see before we take stock in the entire person? I am not saying Michael is a thug like Packman, I am saying he may be as disruptive a force in a locker room as any player because of his attitude.

Teams like the Steelers, Patriots and Giants have realized that collective heart is more important than individual talent. That's why they are willing to let supposed stars leave their teams.

Football still takes eleven guys working together to win. One disruptive force can ruin it all.

I believe that Michael Crabtree may have pulled a Plaxico Burress, shot himself in the leg.

Posted by: jimbo561 | September 23, 2009 8:17 AM

You can just tell that this guy is inadvertently destroying his career, a la Mike Williams. There is no way he is being drafted in the top 10 next year. As a team, why take a chance that the guy will reject your contract offer if he feels disrespected again?

Posted by: smm4c2000 | September 23, 2009 10:00 AM

This egotist reminds me of Joey Galloway, who continues to bounce around the league looking for the ring and respect he thinks he deserves.

I'm surprised the 49ers and Mike Singletary drafted Crabtree, given that the reports on him - shouting, 'head case" - were out there from the very beginning, dropping his value. Obviously at least 4 other teams decided to 'eat healthy; avoid cancer' and the 49ers are winning without him. I haven't kept up on Singletary's comments, but I don't see him having a problem peeing on this kid's Cheerios.

Predictably, Crabtree's ego has been bruised, and he wants to go somewhere else. Maybe he should twitter Joey Galloway

Posted by: Anadromous2 | September 23, 2009 10:03 AM

No matter how much money this spoiled brat signs for next year he will never make up the millions that he will lose this year if he does not come to his senses. The absurdity of paying a new employee millions of dollars based only on the anticipation of things to come is bad enough. The stupidity of refusing millions of dollars in this cash strapped economy trumps that absurdity.

Posted by: jimarush | September 23, 2009 10:25 AM

Crabtree will be the NFL's best receiver. Remember John Elway's protracted holdout? All the writers said the same things about Elway that we're now hearing about Crabtree. Crabtree will have a great career somewhere, and this will all be forgotten.

Posted by: leec1 | September 23, 2009 10:39 AM

I think the author of this article hit it right on the head. But there is one more point he failed to mention about sitting out. Crabtree delays his free agency by one year. I'm not going to stoop to the lowest common denomitor like some commentors and call Crabtree a spoiled brat because I really don't know the man. I understand that the NFL is a business and holdouts and negotiations are a part of that business. What I will question though is Crabtree's unwillingness to recognize when to fold. At some point in negotiations you end up hurting yourself by being inflexible and I think Crabtree has reached (passed?) that point.

Posted by: 6thsense79 | September 23, 2009 12:02 PM

Another POV is that Crabtree would risk re-entering the draft and receiving less money, rather than to play Wide-Out with Sean Hill.

Today the niners have several #3 receivers, they do not need or care if they have a #1 or #2 quality receivers. Why? Because having a Wide Out that can stretch the field, is useless unless you have a QB who can get him the ball.

Posted by: lrossen | September 23, 2009 4:46 PM

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