Crabtree discussion continues

Crabtree discussion continues

 

Over the past couple weeks I’ve spoken to dozens of individuals – none of whom wanted their quotes attributed to them – about Michael Crabtree and the 49ers. There was a theme that quickly developed.

 

In my talks with agents, NFL executives and former NFL executives, not one person supported Crabtree’s side in the contract impasse. I wrote an article for today’s newspaper: “Crabtree still on outside looking in.”

 

Here are some quick-hitters that either did not appear in the article or address frequently asked questions:

 

–Q: When will Crabtree sign with the 49ers?

A: Nobody knows if the contract impasse will end tomorrow, next month or never. If Crabtree decides he wants to report to the 49ers, he can sign the contract at any time. But all indications at this point are it could last a while. At this point, the sides aren’t negotiating. They’ve agreed to disagree.

 

–Q: If Crabtree settles for the 49ers’ offer, how can he justify missing all these practices for a contract he could have signed in late June?

A: That’s the big question. One agent speculated that Crabtree would have to fire his agent, Eugene Parker, and use him as the scapegoat in order to sign the deal. But others believe Crabtree and his family are driving the bus more than Parker. But Crabtree has not said a word publicly about his demands. Therefore, if Crabtree does sign a lesser deal, he can take the high road and remain neutral.

 

–The only public comment from the Crabtree camp came from cousin/adviser David Wells, who said in an interview with ESPN that they are prepared to have Crabtree sit out the entire season. He suggested the Raiders’ contract with seventh-pick Darrius Heyward-Bey was a good starting point for negotiations.

 

–If Crabtree is, indeed, willing to sit out the entire season, perhaps a story of equal significance is that the 49ers appear willing to allow him to sit out. League sources are certain that the 49ers will not cave in and give him a lot more money to avoid the possibility that Crabtree will re-enter the 2010 draft.

 

–Q: What have the 49ers said publicly?

A: Not much. The only quote that directly relates to contract negotiations came from Mike Singletary on July 28: “I don’t know his agent. I don’t know all the other stuff. I do know that we have been fair.”

 

–The 49ers have not had any problems getting rookies into camp on time, so it seems as if the 49ers have been fair with draft picks in the past. But, the problem is, they’re being fair for a No. 10 pick. Crabtree’s side is not willing to acknowledge he was the No. 10 pick.

 

–Q: Why was Crabtree getting blamed for the fact that other first-round picks have yet to sign?

A: Some of it is because the agents who represent players in front of Crabtree were terrified the 49ers will cave in to Crabtree’s demands, thus making them look weak for negotiating deals in which the 10th pick received more than their clients.

 

–League sources said that another reason the signings have been slow is because the Raiders messed up the process by giving Heyward-Bey an incredibly generous 20-percent raise over what the No. 7 pick received last year. Small-market teams – such as Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Green Bay and Buffalo – want to negotiate contracts they deem more reasonable. But the Packers have reportedly reached an agreement with No. 9 pick B.J. Raji, so perhaps other signings will now take place.

 

–Q: Why don’t the 49ers just pay Crabtree like Heyward-Bey?

A: Because that’s not how this works. As I noted in the story, with young executives Jed York, Scot McCloughan and Paraag Marathe, it could have disastrous ramifications for their careers. Also, the precedent would be set. Any first-round draft pick would just hold out until they cave in. The 49ers have two first-round picks next year. Everybody with whom I’ve spoken said they are convinced that the 49ers cannot – and will not – pay him more than anyone drafted with the first nine picks of the draft.

 

–Q: Do wide receivers get more money because of the position they play?

A: Not in the draft. The only position that receives any kind of premium is quarterback. That’s just the way it’s always been.

 

–Q: Is Crabtree’s side waiting for those other first-round picks to be signed?

A: No. They’re waiting for the 49ers to up their offer. Heyward-Bey’s contract is the only one that matters.

 

–Q: Do we know what the 49ers have offered?

A: Not exactly. But the sources with whom I’ve spoken believe the 49ers’ offer is approximately an 18-percent raise from what the Patriots awarded linebacker Jerod Mayo, who was chosen in the same spot last year. That would mean Crabtree has balked at approximately $16.2 million in guaranteed money on a five-year deal or $19.5 million for six years.

 

–One agent who deals closely with the 49ers told me there is an $18 million difference between the sides on the total package of the contract.

 

–Q: Can the 49ers trade Crabtree?

A: Yes, the 49ers own Crabtree’s rights until next draft. UPDATE: The answer is “No.” The deadline to trade an unsigned rookie passed on Aug. 14. Now, if Crabtree plays in the NFL in 2009, it will have to be with the 49ers. Team president summed up the situation as saying the 49ers are “all in.” He expressed confidence that something will get done, but added he’s not sure when it might happen.

 

–Q: But is there a team that would give up a draft pick (or two) to the 49ers for the right to begin negotiating with Parker?

A: That is very doubtful. After all, if such a team were out there, why didn’t that team trade up to get Crabtree with one of the top nine picks in the draft.

 

–Q: If Crabtree does not sign as the regular season approaches, will the 49ers lower the contract they’ve already offered?

A: That’s highly doubtful. The 49ers believe they have offered a fair contract. They think Crabtree will eventually come around and accept a deal worthy of a No. 10 pick. They fell in love with Crabtree for his ability to catch a football. Those personnel evaluations have not changed. They still expect Crabtree to be a big part of the team’s future, and they don’t want this thing to turn contentious. They’ll patiently wait.

 

–Because the 49ers own his rights, he would be prohibited from working out for teams to answer questions about his speed. And he would be unable to visit teams to answer questions about his personality and character. He could stand to lose a lot of money. It’s highly unlikely he would go in the top-10 again. Also, there’s a slight chance that the owners will get together and revamp the system for paying draft picks. (In all likelihood, if that occurs it would be in 2011.) But Crabtree would also be one year further from free agency – and the possibility of a second big contract — if he does not compile an accrued season this year.

 

–Q: If the 49ers are unable to sign Crabtree, do they receive compensation?

A: Absolutely not. There are no mulligans in the NFL draft.

 

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