Will hefty demand lead to Crabtree contract stalemate?

Niners rookies, quarterbacks and selected veterans are set to report to training camp in Santa Clara on Tuesday. Four days later, the team will hold its first practice.

Although it was not the intention of the lag time between reporting date and first practice, there is a four-day window for the team’s top negotiator, Paraag Marathe, to wrap up contract negotiations with the rookie class.

 

Word is that the 49ers and running back Glen Coffee, the team’s third-round pick, are nearing the completion of their contract. He is expected to report to camp with most of his rookie classmates. But that brings us to the big question . . .

 

Question: Do you think Michael Crabtree is going to hold out or you think he’ll sign before the start of training camp? (Andrew W.)

 

Answer: There is still a week before the practices begin, so it’s difficult to predict. Up until now, I thought the sides would be able to hammer out a contract to get Crabtree into training camp without too much difficulty.

 

However, there are indications that it will be a challenge for the 49ers to get Crabtree signed before the start of training camp. Again, there is still a lot of time to get something accomplished – and only two first-round picks have signed deals — but the 49ers and Crabtree are currently far apart in their negotiations.

 

If history tells us anything it’s that Crabtree’s agent, Eugene Parker, does not mind engaging in holdout tactics. (Technically, an unsigned rookie is not a “holdout” because no contract has been agreed upon. I’ll try my best to refrain from calling it a holdout. Rather, it’s a contract stalemate.)

 

At least four of Parker’s clients had contract issues last season. Bills tackle Jason Peters skipped 43 days and missed the season opener. Rams running back Steven Jackson held out for 27 days before signing a new contract. Bears return man Devin Hester did not report for the first two days of camp before signing a new deal. And Cardinals rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie missed two practices before signing his contract.

 

Yes, the 49ers have been successful in getting their draft picks signed on time in recent years. But the agents deserve some credit, too.

 

The 49ers – and every team in the NFL – believe that a player’s rookie contract is essentially predetermined by where he was selected in the draft. As the No. 10 overall pick, Crabtree should receive less than the No. 9 pick and a little more than No. 11.

 

I don’t believe the 49ers would buy the suggestion that Crabtree deserves more money because a lot of outsiders thought he should have been selected sooner in the draft and he was generally regarded as a better prospect than receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, whom the Raiders selected with the seventh pick.

 

Pro Football Talk reports that the Bills, who open camp today, and the No. 11 pick, Aaron Maybin, might have difficulty reaching a timely deal. Part of the problem, according to the report, is that the No. 10 pick is looking to break the bank, as Parker is looking for a blockbuster deal for Crabtree. The theory is that Crabtree should have been a top-five selection.

 

If Parker, indeed, demands that kind of contract it could be a very long stalemate – and Crabtree will suffer on and off the field because of it.

 

After all, Crabtree underwent surgery in March to repair a stress fracture in his left foot. He did not step on the practice field during the offseason, and he is already far behind all the other wide receivers on the team.

 

Crabtree hired Parker to be his agent. That’s a key sentence. Parker works for Crabtree, so the agent is ultimately going to do what his client orders him to do. So if Crabtree truly wants to be on the practice field for the first day of training camp, he will be there.

 

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