Niners could salvage something with springtime trade
Michael Crabtree deserves a lot of credit for honesty. Of course, he has not spoken a public word about his contract impasse with the 49ers, but his actions are refreshingly candid.
Some athletes utter words – generally upon signing a big-money contract – that they love the sport so much they’d play for free. You won’t hear Michael Crabtree make such an absurd statement.
Through his actions over the past month-and-a-half, Crabtree is making the unmistakable statement, “I wouldn’t play for the 49ers if they pay me $20 million (including $16 mil guaranteed).”
The 49ers have put a value on Crabtree as a player. They believe it’s reasonable to offer him a five-year, $20 million contract. But Crabtree also has every right to set his own value. And that is exactly what he has done.
And that’s why today is Day 44 of the contract stalemate. It’s the longest impasse for a 49ers draft pick in club history. How about that? He has yet to run a pass route on the 49ers’ practice field, and the man has already set a team record.
The 49ers were giddy when they selected the wide receiver from Texas Tech with the No. 10 overall pick. Coach Mike Singletary said the 49ers had him rated as the No. 1 receiver in the draft – and one of the best players. Of course, Crabtree came with plenty of baggage. He did not work out prior to the draft because of a stress fracture in his foot. He reportedly also rubbed at least one team, the Browns, the wrong way with his attitude.
For a couple months there have been whispers around the 49ers that Crabtree did not exactly endear himself to members of the organization during his short time with the team during the offseason, either. But petty stuff is overlooked if the guy is going to produce on the field.
And there was genuine hope that Crabtree would be an immediate contributor from Day 1.
The 49ers open the season with one of their biggest games of the season. The 49ers travel to
His value for the team continues to diminish with every practice he misses – every game against an NFC West opponent he misses. Crabtree’s mentor, Deion Sanders, said Crabtree does not need the money. He said he believes the rookie is prepared to sit out his entire first season in the NFL. But if Crabtree doesn’t need the money, then why does he continue to sit out in hopes of gaining a few extra million dollars that Sanders said he didn’t need in the first place?
The 49ers – from everything I’ve been told for more than a month – are not going to raise their offer for Crabtree, the 10th selection. Team officials have him slotted to make less than the ninth pick and more than the 11th pick. The 49ers have no desire to meet Crabtree in the middle. And if that’s not good enough for Crabtree, then the 49ers are prepared to have him skip his rookie season.
And at this point, the 49ers are well within their rights to add a year to the contract – to compensate for what is looking like a lost rookie season – and/or begin lowering their offer.
Of course, Crabtree could swallow his pride and sign the contract the 49ers have offered him at any moment. Or he could dig in his heels and be stubborn.
Singletary has been guarded in his comments about Crabtree. He says he will be excited when things finally get worked out. Singletary had an approximate two-week contract impasse as a rookie, He reported and played all 16 games his first season. Although Singletary has been in Crabtree’s position, it would be interesting to find out what Singletary truly thinks of him. Singletary often talks about players who have passion for the game. And Singletary has described the 49ers’ offer to Crabtree as “fair.”
The 49ers’ stance has been they’re willing to sacrifice a couple months if Crabtree gives them five good seasons. But it’s reasonable at this point to wonder if Crabtree is going to be worth the hassle.
I’m just wondering if it might not be in the best interest of the 49ers’ organization to lower their contract offer to the point to ensure Crabtree does not sign. If Crabtree is going to be this much of a problem before even stepping on the practice field, it might work to the team’s advantage to make sure he never becomes part of the team.
If Crabtree and the 49ers do not reach a contract agreement by Nov. 17, he can’t play for the 49ers this season. But all will not be lost for the 49ers. The club will have about seven weeks, beginning March 1, to find a trade partner. It should be no problem to trade him if there are at least two teams out there – as Sanders suggested – willing to pay Crabtree $40 million over five years.
But it also makes you wonder why those teams did not trade up to get Crabtree long before he reached the No. 10 pick in the draft.
There is a precedent for something like this. The Cardinals selected quarterback Kelly Stouffer with the No. 6 pick in 1987. Stouffer sat out the entire season. The following April, the Cardinals traded Stouffer’s rights to the Seahawks for a fifth-round pick in the 1988 draft and first- and fifth-round selections in the ’89 draft.
If the 49ers can get three draft picks, including a first-rounder, for Crabtree, that might be their best course of action. Heck, it might be their only course of action.
Because . . . if the 49ers aren’t going to increase their offer . . . and . . . if Crabtree isn’t going to lower his demand . . . a springtime trade is the only way this ordeal can possibly end.
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