I'm afraid we may have to add a new name to the list of NFL difference-makers: Eugene Parker. That's right. A sports agent.
Right now Parker has an inordinate amount of influence over the future of the football teams in Northern California. Parker's advice and strategy have both the 49ers and the Raiders on the ropes heading into the first game of the season. Put simply, Parker has the Bay Area's NFL teams by the shorts.
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco's rookie wide receiver, is represented by Parker. Crabtree is entering the 42nd day of his holdout. Crabtree's camp believes he is worth more than where he was drafted. The 49ers thought it was great that he fell to them at No. 10. So they both agree that it was a surprise that Crabtree was available at No. 10. End of agreement.
Crabtree wants more money than the slotting system would provide, while the 49ers would like to pay the rookie based on draft order. The early reports that Crabtree could hold out for the entire season -- bulletins that once seemed crazy -- now actually seem possible. An NFL source had thought Crabtree would sign with the 49ers in early September. But here we are past Labor Day, hours away from the opening kickoff, and still no Crabtree or smoke signals from Parker.
And now Parker has the Raiders on a similar string. On Sunday Davis made one of those Big Al Moves, an eye-opening trade that he's so famous for, sending his first round pick in 2011 to the Patriots for defensive lineman Richard Seymour.
This looks like a good move for both teams. For years the Raiders have had one of the worst run defenses in the league, not a good thing to have when you're in the same division as LaDanian Tomlinson. New coach Tom Cable's strategy of patient teaching paid zero dividends in the exhibition season, when the Raiders were again last against the run. Seymour, a five-time Pro Bowler, would help them plug their porous defensive line.
And it's a great move for the Patriots. They traded away a guy in the final year of his contract for a first-round pick. Since it's the Raiders, that pick has a very good chance of being in the top 10. And 2011 could be the first year of a rookie salary cap -- making those high draft picks infinitely more valuable than they are today (for how problematic they are in the current climate see above: Crabtree, Michael).
There's only one problem. It doesn't seem to be a great move for Seymour. And Parker is Seymour's agent. So far, Seymour has not appeared in Oakland.
Though league sources told Associated Press that the trade was on the league's official transaction list, it took on a hazy aura on Monday, as things around the Oakland Raiders tend to do.
Cable said: "We have attempted to make a deal. There are some issues still between him and the Patriots that are being worked out. I'm hoping that will get resolved as quickly as possible. We know that the player wants to be here, but we have really no control over those issues."
A Patriots spokesman denied knowledge of any such issues. You can't blame Seymour for being upset.
Let's let his old teammate Rodney Harrison explain why. "He's not thrilled," Harrison told Pro Football Talk. "Who would be thrilled to go to the Oakland Raiders? Maybe somebody who's happy to just get a chance but not a guy like Richard Seymour, a five-time Pro Bowler. .. Put yourself in his position. He's going from a first-class organization to one of the worst in the NFL."
Seymour is due to make $3.7 million this year. One would assume he doesn't want to walk away from that. One would also assume that Crabtree knows that leaving millions of dollars and an entire year of what is a notoriously short career on the table would be insane. Yet he just might.
"Is he willing to sit out the entire year? I think so. I really think so," Deion Sanders said on the NFL Network last week.
And what does Sanders know? Well, Parker was his agent back in 1995, when the Sanders' sweepstakes was going on. Sanders ultimately signed a $35 million deal with the Cowboys.
But his decision left an impact on the Bay Area. Sanders has since said that the Raiders offered him the most money, but he opted to go to Dallas. And he spurned the 49ers, who haven't won a Super Bowl since he left town. And the maneuvering was all directed by Parker.
It's a sad state of affairs, when a sports agent is part of the local pantheon.