Friday, May 20, 2005

Pass the Hat For Poor Javon Walker

Hot on the jock of Terrell Owens (and boy did that sound wrong), we see and hear Green Bay’s WR Javon Walker asking for a re-done deal, in light of his excellent 2004 season (be it breakthrough or highwater mark). Walker feels that he’s far outperformed the miniscule 500K a year he’ll get for the next two seasons, and suggests that he’s “one of the top five receivers in the league”. [Memo to Javon Walker: Inarguably, there are times to listen to your mother, like when she tells you to wear clean underwear or not to date Jennifer Lopez. This, however, is not one of those times. Top 5 in the league? You couldn’t beat out Anquan Boldin at Florida State, and he had one good knee for two legs.]

Holdouts, especially those by probable-flashes-in-the-pan like Walker, have always mystified me. I think agents are probably more than a little responsible for these little tantrums; they half-assed through your negotiation and didn’t tack on some seemingly harmless incentives for you to beef up your salary, so now they’re trying to get that 15% to amount to something by encouraging you to dishonor the contract they themselves told you was a good deal two years ago. When your own teammates are telling you to show up and play, rather than hurt the team concept with your selfishness, it’s time to quietly swallow your pride and give up, or at least tell the press you “don’t want to disrupt the flow by negotiating during the season”.

If you ask an absent player why he’s holding out, his answer will probably include some variation of the word leverage. Not that I think the player isn’t answering honestly, but again, that’s the agent with his hand up the player’s ass. In a signed-contract situation, leverage only exists when your holdout would almost certainly have real and undesirable consequences (see Emmitt Smith about 10 years ago, missing two Cowboys losses to start the season, then backing up the proverbial Brinks truck). If the Packers found the prospect of being without Javon Walker for an extended time (or his leaving as a free agent in two years) to be so horrible, the ink would already be dry on his Big New Contract.

Almost admirably, the Packers seem to be following the Eagles’ lead, reminding Walker of his contract, and not discouraging his teammates from expressing their opinions on the nearly destitute Javon Walker’s quest for enough money just to live. If I’m the GM in Green Bay, it goes down like this:

To: Javon Walker
Fr: Ted Thompson, General Manager, Green Bay Packers
Re: 2005-2006 season

This will be the only time the Packers will ask you to honor your contract. Should you fail to report in the next ten days, we will honor our end of the deal and pay you, but you will not be permitted to play in a game for the remainder of the contract, under any circumstances. At the completion of this existing contract, we will gladly discuss re-evaluation of your salary commensurate with your production; we will also be curious as to which NFL teams would offer a large contract to a player who either held out for two seasons, or didn’t play for two seasons. See you next week.

And that, my friend, is what real leverage looks like. How’s the taste?


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