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tiggerpolice 07-17-2005 09:45 AM

Rookie deals becoming headache for owners
Rookie deals becoming headache for owners
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Jeff Duncan
There's a long way to go before the NFL completes a new collective bargaining agreement, but let's hope some sort of rookie wage scale is included in the new pact.

Deals for NFL rookies are limited only by the depth of their owners' pockets and the creativity of their agents. That has left agents and league executives to negotiate deals under an unofficial "slotting" system. For example, a player drafted with the No. 6 pick in a given draft receives roughly the same amount as the No. 6 pick from the previous year, with a 6-8 percent increase.

Within those parameters, though, agents tweak deals in a number of ways: voidable years, escalator clauses, incentives, etc. These variables unnecessarily complicate the negotiation process.

That's why no first-round pick has signed a contract in the three months that have passed since the April 23-24 draft.

It's also why a team such as the Saints haven't had a top pick in camp by opening day in the past five years.

Remember Bryant McKinnie? He didn't sign a rookie contract until November because his representatives and Vikings officials couldn't agree to a deal.

The entire exercise is ridiculous. And it's not always the fault of penny-pinching owners.

Consider the task of Ben Dogra of St. Louis-based SFX Sports. One of the league's top young agents, Dogra is trying to negotiate a long-term deal for Saints running back Deuce McAllister while simultaneously working deals for first-round draft picks Cadillac Williams, Antrel Rolle, Jammal Brown and Mark Clayton. He'll have to work round the clock to get all four in camp on time.

A wage scale would eliminate such craziness. Rookies would receive contracts with predetermined salaries, bonuses and years depending on where they are drafted.

One plan the NFL is considering is to limit first-round picks to five-year deals, second-round picks to four-year deals and picks in Rounds 3 through 7 to three-year contracts.

Any scale or predetermined slotting system that simplifies the process is a good one.

It works in the NBA.

The Hornets drafted Chris Paul in the first round of the June 28 NBA draft and had him signed to a three-year deal eight days later. Paul was able to immediately pocket his guaranteed money and concentrate on the important task of mastering the point guard position at his sport's highest level.

What a concept.

Agents won't like a wage scale because it will reduce their influence and bottom line. They're certain to lobby against it.

Let's hope the NFL and players association ignores them and injects some sense into all this negotiation nonsense.

THE ICE CREAM JAG: The Jacksonville Jaguars are pulling out all the stops to sell tickets. The new strategy -- an ice cream truck.

The club has bought and refurbished an old-fashioned ice cream truck to use in promotional appearances around Jacksonville. Team officials will offer free ice cream to fans along with information on the team.

The Jaguars hoped to debut the ice cream truck this weekend. Fans are being invited to write or e-mail the team to request that the ice cream truck make a stop at their business or home.

"It's something of a vehicle, no pun intended, to get us out there engaging the community and putting smiles on people's faces," Jaguars marketing director Jennifer Perkins told the Florida Times-Union. "It's letting the fans know we care about the community."

PAC-MAN BUSTED: Titans first-round draft pick Adam "Pacman" Jones has cost himself a lot of money with his questionable decision-making the past few months.

Jones, the No. 6 overall pick, was arrested and charged with assault and vandalism after his alleged involvement in an altercation at a Nashville nightclub.

The club's owner, Robert "Big Daddy" Gaddy accused Jones of breaking and losing his $4,000 necklace.

"I don't know what his problem is, but he's seriously off his rocker," Gaddy said yesterday in a telephone interview with The Tennessean. "Ever since he's been in town, I've shown him the utmost respect. But (Tuesday morning) he lost his mind. The Titans need to get him some psychological help. Otherwise, he's going to get in serious trouble."

Gaddy's younger brother, Lamar Woodson, said Jones hit him with an open hand across the face.

"He just wanted to show off in front of his boys I guess, so he clubbed me," Woodson said. "To me, he was acting like some type of wild animal or something. It was like he had no sense."

Before the recent incident, Jones was also linked to two other incidents. On June 8, he was in a hotel room in Nashville in which some of his friends were allegedly found with marijuana. On April 27, Jones was at an Atlanta nightclub where a fight broke out, but all reports said he wasn't involved.

Look for the Titans to include several personal conduct clauses in Jones' deal to protect the club from future problems.

AROUND THE NFL: The Bills plan to offer third-year cornerback Terrence McGee a long-term contract after the start of training camp. The former Northwestern State defensive back earned a Pro Bowl appearance as a return man last season and has emerged as a quality cornerback. . . . Denver will take 17 defensive linemen to training camp after acquiring end John Engelberger in a trade with San Francisco. Also in the mix are veterans Courtney Brown, Marco Coleman, Ebenezer Ekuban, Raylee Johnson, Chukie Nwokorie, Anton Palepoi and Trevor Pryce. . . . Look for the dynamic duo of Nick Saban and Randy Mueller to further bolster the Dolphins defense by adding veteran safety Lance Schulters before the start of training camp.

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