Hobson's Choice: Deal will work out

Mark,

My concern is with Chad. He recently hired genuine player corrupter agent Drew Rosenhaus, who is only concerned with lining his own pockets. The only reason I can come up with for the recent hiring is that Chad seeks a new contract. Do you think that is the case? The Bengals are finally coming out of the cellar, I would hate to see a genuine player like Chad be influenced by the agent, that signifys everything that is wrong with Pro Sports. That would destroy everything that Marvin is trying to create, A Team, not a TO.
**

-Mike MIKE:**
Judging from the e-mails, Rosenhaus would have a tough time getting elected to the Bengaldom City Council, but you can't blame him for all that's wrong with pro sports. Agents have had a lot of help from owners and players. People want to put them at the bottom of the food chain, but everyone else in the swamp is trying to make money, too. That said, it looks like he knows a disastrous public relations move was made with Terrell Owens since Chad is doing a complete 180 from T.O. Fans who have to make sacrifices to pay for season tickets have and should collectively vomit at the notion of a guy stiffing a contract that has already given him the budget of small northeast state.

Rosenhaus and Joel Segal are two independent lone gun guys who work extremely hard for their clients and you'd love to have them on your side. David Levine, another Miami-based agent, is also a one-man band who gets things done. If you want a guy to do a deal for you in the NFL, Rosenhaus is like Barack Obama. He's on everyone's short list and rightfully so. Like it or not, they are as much a part of the game now as players, coaches, and, yes, fans.

But public opinion and team reaction all across the league shows that fans and teams won't tolerate players holding out in an attempt to re-do long term contracts so early in the deals. The Eagles and Packers set a solid precedent on T.O. and Javon Walker, respectively.

In Rosenhaus' defense, he figured it out early in those debacles, and kept mum on the Chad thing until he told ESPN.com last week for another story that he felt Johnson was underpaid. And, really, he didn't demand a new deal or anything like that publicly. My only beef is that he wouldn't reiterate to Bengals.com or the other Cincinnati media what he said to ESPN.com.

But, he doesn't get paid to help you or me. Smart guy. He plants the national seed, and now is going to back off and do the work behind the scenes for his client.

Let's face it. He knows Chad can't re-do his deal this year. It's only the first year of his extension, and the team has to get some relief for giving him $10.5 million before he ever went to the Pro Bowl or led the AFC in receiving yardage.

Now if Johnson puts up a year in 2005 like he did in 2003 and 2004, then I guess maybe you have to start looking at those huge contracts like Randy Moss (eight years, $75 million) Marvin Harrison (seven years, $67 million), Eric Moulds (six years for 38.2 million), Torry Holt (six years for $41.3 million), and Owens (seven for $48.7 million).

But how much of those numbers are real and how much of that is back-loaded salary those guys will never see? Johnson knows he's going to get all of that $26 million extension because the deal is so salary cap friendly. Yeah, they'll probably have to tweak it at some point after this season or next, but maybe not all that drastically, and the Bengals have shown that they have done those things as far back as Boomer Esiason. Just look in the last two years with the back-to-back extensions for head coach Marvin Lewis, and the decision to give Jon Kitna $1.6 million even though he didn't technically hit the incentive.

So it looks like Rosenhaus and Johnson have figured out if they quietly bide their time, the Bengals will come up with something if he keeps producing. Certainly Johnson has made that observation because Karl Rove couldn't have crafted a better I-just-want-to-play response at the height of the anti-T.O. sentiment.

Of course, how bad is it getting when you salute a guy for simply honoring his obligation? He should be coming to training camp. He should be able to haul himself off that $10.5 million pad.

But, that said, isn't it time for the hard-liners to get off Chad's back?

OK, he's done some ridiculous things that may or may not have jeopardized his team in the past, but I think you can see he's learned from the Bay of Pepto disaster of last October. It bugs me that one guy gets labeled badly if he shows some passion and some irreverence and yet a guy like Brett Favre does the same thing and continually gets treated with kid gloves by the national media.

From what I can gather, Johnson has been a fine citizen off the field and in the last year has made a tremendous effort to get out into the community as a spokesman for Special Olympics, and as a participant in other charity events, most recently John Thornton's bowling event for autism.

He practices hard, he plays hard, he wants to win, and he has taken the initiative in this contract thing to say and do the right thing. So give the guy a break and some due.

He seems to realize that this is a crucial time for him here with the public. It's like he knows a big blowup will get him dumped in the Pickens-Dillon pile where they don't play charity golf tournaments.

I sense that Marvin has used his considerable influence already with Chad, as well as Rosenhaus, in this situation, and it shows his toughness under fire and his relentless desire (and ability) to keep his team intact and focused in any storm.

Also, some readers are upset with me that A) I asked Chad the contract question before the issue was raised a couple of times before this week and B) that I wrote about it extensively as I did.

In my mind, the fact that Rosenhaus had several clients holding out who were in a position similar to Chad made it a legitimate question and issue. And Rosenhaus' ensuing comments validated the questioning. Obviously, I didn't make it up.

As for writing about contract questions, like agents, it's part of the game. More so now because of the salary cap. It would be like not writing about special teams because they have nothing to do with offense and defense.

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