What we have here is a failure to communicate. That was my first thought this offseason when reading a number of quotes from players who are disgruntled with their current contractual situations. Clearly, some of these players and their agents feel they have been misled, which I can certainly appreciate. But have they? Consider some of the following comments.
"I'm not going to point anyone out or any statement out, but, yeah, I was told one thing and another thing happened," Steelers placekicker Jeff Reed said about his contract situation at the beginning of training camp. "I understand business moves, but I'm not a big fan of lying."
"After the 2008 season, me and my agent approached the Patriots about an extension and I was told that Mr. Kraft did not want to do an extension because of the [uncertain collective bargaining agreement]," Patriots unsigned Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins said back in June. "I was asked to play '09 out, and that they would address the contract during the uncapped year. I'm a team player, I took them at their word, and I felt I played out an undervalued contract.
"That's the big thing," Mankins said. "Right now, this is about principle with me and keeping your word and how you treat people. This is what I thought the foundation of the Patriots was built on. Apparently, I was wrong. Growing up, I was taught a man's word is his bond. Obviously this isn't the case with the Patriots."
Fast forward two months to when Mankins' agent, Frank Bauer, chipped in with, "They have totally lost this player mentally. For this young man to work like he has and play for the club for five years, and be promised he'd be taken care of, and to throw the offer they did across the table?"
Holdouts in the National Football League are nothing new. Calling out organizations, front office executives and even owners as liars is another thing. Clearly, Reed, Mankins and others feel they were promised something that was never delivered.
In the case of Mankins, he said he was told that they would "address the contract during the uncapped year" and that the Pats would "take care of him." Have they not done that? It's depends on your perspective, of course, but the Patriots' front office can easily say it has done exactly that.
Published reports indicate that the Patriots have offered Mankins a five-year extension worth $35 million. More recently, Albert Breer of the Boston Globe reported that the deal offered would "legitimately make Mankins the third highest paid guard" in the NFL.
Whether or not those are the exact contract terms is immaterial. What matters is that, in the mind of the Patriots, their offer could in fact be "addressing the contract during the uncapped year," like they allegedly promised. Mankins, clearly, feels as if he is being lowballed and not being taken care of in the manner he thought he would be.
That brings us back to the crux of this entire saga, and others like it. The definition and the details surrounding "being taken care of" or "having the contract addressed" are far too ambiguous. When a player hears phrases like that they have a tendency to get certain numbers and benchmarks in their head. That's why at least some of the blame, if not all of it, rests with the player and his agent. Unless the Patriots told Mankins or his agent that they would make Mankins the "highest paid guard in the league" or give him a contract "worth $9 million a year over six years with $25 million guaranteed," the problem here lies in the details.
Agents need to get some sort of financial parameters from the teams that say they will "take care of" their player. Otherwise, it is really just idle talk and pretty much pointless. The teams, for their part, would probably do well to stay away from such phrases even if they think they are innocuous, because of the expectations and hard feelings they could create. That's easier said than done, of course, because teams often say things like that to placate the player. Now it is up to their agents to no longer allow it.
An all-Twitter mailbag this week, via @SI_RossTucker ...
1. SportsGirl_129 @SI_RossTucker -- Should we panic if our teams seem to have problems on both side of the ball in preseason?
The scores of preseason games mean nothing. There's no telling how much game-planning is going into the game and what the team is trying to accomplish. It could be that your team is trying something new or focusing on one particular aspect of improvement. That said, if certain individuals are clearly struggling, that should be worrisome.
2. BNQuinlan @SI_RossTucker -- Every season a previous year's last place team won their division the next year. Who's your pick? Kansas City seems to have the best shot.
I'll take the Redskins. In fact, I am leaning toward picking them to win the NFC East based upon what I saw at training camp and in the first preseason game. They have a legitimate chance with Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan.
3. CEG_AVFC @SI_RossTucker -- Which coach's diversity and length of resume amazes or impresses you the most?
I'd say Bill Belichick because his football knowledge is so vast that I believe he could be a position coach for every single position on the field, and that's saying something. And he has a keen understanding of the financial and personnel side of the business.
4. mcsingh85 @SI_RossTucker -- How do you evaluate a young backup QB to know if he can handle the job of a starter, such as a Painter, Hoyer or Flynn.
You never really know for sure until an injury happens and a backup quarterback is thrust into action. You can, however, get a pretty good feel for how he would perform in a regular season game based upon his proficiency in the preseason. Did he move the team down the field and avoid costly turnovers? That's what matters most.