07-28-2005, 10:02 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: San Antonio, TX
Deuce's deal almost done? Pays more than Portis
[From The Times-Picayune]
Thursday, July 28, 2005
The best-case scenario for the opening day of Saints training camp today is having all 87 players report to work, and the club holds a press conference to announce a new long-term deal for Deuce McAllister.
The worst-case scenario is several of the club's key veterans and rookies are no-shows because of contract disputes, overshadowing the official start of the season and dampening a distraction-free offseason.
The good news for the Saints is that all indications late Wednesday night pointed to the former.
Barring a last-minute breakdown in negotiations, McAllister said Wednesday he plans to report to camp today and hopes to do so under the terms of a new blockbuster contract that would make him the highest-paid player in franchise history and the second-highest paid running back in the NFL.
Sources close to the negotiations said a deal could be done as early as this afternoon.
"I plan on being there," McAllister said. "I prefer to have a contract done, but I'm pleased with the progress of negotiations. I feel the Saints have been trying to get a fair deal done, and I don't want to miss any critical days with the guys (on the team)."
Saints coach Jim Haslett said he expects every player under contract to report to a mandatory meeting at 6 p.m. at the team's training complex in Metairie. But he didn't guarantee it. He expressed concern that McAllister or both starting cornerbacks, Mike McKenzie and Fakhir Brown, as well as rookie right tackle Jammal Brown, could be missing.
"I don't know what's going to happen," Haslett said. "I expect everybody under contract to be here."
Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, unexcused players under contract can be fined $6,000 for each day of missed work.
McAllister, a two-time Pro Bowl player who is entering the final year of his original five-year contract, hinted earlier this summer that he might skip a workout or two in protest if a new long-term deal isn't completed by the start of camp.
Talks between McAllister's agent, Ben Dogra, and Saints officials began in earnest in June and have intensified in recent weeks. Discussions went late into the night both Tuesday and Wednesday, and were expected to continue into this afternoon.
The sides were close to finalizing an eight-year deal that sources said would make McAllister the highest-paid back in the league other than San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson, who signed an eight-year, $60 million deal about a year ago. McAllister's deal would better the eight-year, $50.5 million contract Clinton Portis received from Washington in 2004.
"I don't know if a deal will get done or not," Dogra said Wednesday morning. "We are currently in active negotiations. Issues are being discussed on a daily basis (in) multiple conversations."
Haslett said center LeCharles Bentley has assured him that he will report to camp, an assertion echoed by Bentley's agent, Peter Schaffer.
Bentley, a 2003 Pro Bowl selectee, is entering the final year of his original four-year contract. Schaffer said he has had several preliminary discussions with Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, but has yet to exchange proposals on a new deal. Loomis could not be reached for comment.
"LeCharles has got a contract," Schaffer said. "If the Saints make a fair proposal and we can agree to a long-term deal that justifies a player of LeCharles' caliber, then that's great. If not, then March 1 comes and he becomes a free agent."
The situations for McKenzie and Fakhir Brown weren't as clear. McKenzie's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, met with Saints officials at team headquarters Tuesday. He did not return several phone calls to his office Wednesday.
McAllister said he talked to McKenzie on Monday, and the cornerback told him he planned to report on time.
McKenzie has two years left on the four-year, $13.1-million contract he signed with Green Bay in 2003. He missed all of the Packers' training camp and their regular-season opener against Carolina last season in a display of dissatisfaction with the deal.
Fakhir Brown is entering the final year of a two-year contract that he said underpays him as a starter. In protest, he skipped coaching sessions this spring, the only healthy veteran under contract who did not participate in the voluntary workouts.
The five-year veteran was scheduled to meet with Haslett on Wednesday night to discuss his plans.
The Saints have had only one major training camp holdout since Haslett became coach. Quarterback Aaron Brooks skipped the first three days of the 2002 camp because of his dissatisfaction with the progress of negotiations on a long-term contract.
Haslett said a contract dispute is "only a distraction if you let it" become one. "And we're not going to let it happen," he added. "The negotiations are out of my hands. I know what's going on, but I'm really not involved."
The potential holdouts notwithstanding, the Saints have enjoyed an uneventful summer off the field. Other than Fakhir Brown's decision to skip coaching sessions, a club that once endured annual summer shenanigans from ringleaders such as Ricky Williams and Kyle Turley has stealthily flown under the radar this offseason.
Team Turmoil has transformed into Team Tranquil.
While Williams, Terrell Owens, Javon Walker and the 49ers public relations department dominate the SportsCenter headlines nightly, the serene Saints have gone about their business in a quiet, business-like manner.
"I thought the offseason went smooth," Haslett said. "What we wanted to accomplish, we did. There wasn't a lot of incidents or (distractions) off the field. . . . I don't think a circus-like atmosphere is a positive for your football team. A business-like atmosphere is better."
The Saints will practice for the first time at 3 p.m. Friday. It will be the first of 27 workouts over the course of the 28-day camp, including eight two-a-day sessions. The practices will be sandwiched around the annual Black and Gold Scrimmage in Jackson, Miss., Aug. 6. and preseason games against Seattle on Aug. 12 and at New England on Aug. 18.
The roster must be pared to 65 players by Aug. 30. Final roster cuts to 53 must be made by Sept. 4, a week before the regular-season opener against Carolina.
Only one major holdout in 5 or 6 years is a good thing. I will give Haslett props for that. But considering who had the hold out, I understand why they would be gunshy about giving away huge new deals.