SportsProf

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Monday, August 02, 2004

Who in the NFL is Really Smoking the Wacky Tobacco?

There are many candidates, from those who tested positive (Ricky Williams) to those who might be smoking something (the Arizona Cardinals' front office, the Cleveland Browns' front office or Kellen Winslow, Sr. and Jr.).

I won't comment on Ricky, as those who get paid to do so for a living have beaten that horse to the point where the glue factory won't even take it. But I will comment on a few NFL negotiations with first-round picks.

First, the Arizona Cardinals, whose motto used to be "We treat nickels like they are manhole covers" inked their first-round pick, and the #3 pick overall in the first round, Larry Fitzgerald, to the most lucrative contract for a rookie ever. That means more than this year's #1 pick, Eli Manning, among others. This signing appears to be extraordinary (and perhaps extraordinarily bad) because the Cardinals gave Fitzgerald a $20 million signing bonus. To a player who has yet to play a single down, and to a player who might not turn out to be QB Josh McCown's #1 option (Anquan Boldin, last year's rookie find, just might fill that bill). Maybe Fitzgerald will turn into the next Jerry Rice and prove the Cardinals right and all of the doubters wrong. But remember this, Jerry Rice had Joe Montana throwing to him. Larry Fitzgerald has Josh McCown.

You gotta love this quote from Fitzgerald's agent, Eugene Parker, about the Cardinals, who overcame their traditional stinginess: "Give them credit," Parker said. "They stepped up and negotiated. They were motivated, we were motivated, and even though things could be a little adversarial at times, the focus stayed on what was important: getting him there on time."

Give them credit, Mr. Parker? Absolutely. Give them credit for making you agent of the decade. Give them credit for basically creating a new custom-made ring for your cell phone, one that keeps on going "cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-chingggggg" because you're now guaranteed to represent more first-rounders in the coming years than the next three agents combined. Sure, you did a great job for your client, you really did, because it's hard to get more money for a third pick than a first pick. But what the heck were the Cardinals thinking?

Apparently, though, the Cardinals aren't alone in this week of odd thinking. In Cleveland, the player and the front office are definitely proving the adage that it takes two to tango. In one corner is Kellen Winslow, Jr., the gifted tight end, and in the other is the Cleveland front office. Apparently, the Cleveland front office offered Winslow Jr. a fine contract, one that would have made him the richest TE ever, even though he, like Fitzgerald, had never played a down. What in the name of John Mackey, Ozzie Newsome, Shannon Sharpe, Kellen Winslow, Sr., Keith Jackson and Tony Gonzalez were they thinking? (Or smoking?). But then, Winslow Jr. turns the deal down! And then, the Browns go public with that fact! And now the Winslows, Sr. and Jr., are angry. What is going on in Cleveland?

And, meanwhile, people are still getting on Ricky Williams' case for smoking marijuana (or at least getting caught smoking marijuana) and retiring early. And he's supposed to be the crazy one, turning down all that money so that he can find some absolute truths in life.

Well, Ricky, you don't have to look further than your own former league. Here are a few absolute truths: 1. It's a fundamental premise of sports negotiations that you don't embarrass the other side in the newspapers. 2. Halftime shows at the Super Bowl will always disappoint. 3. You won't go down in history as a great QB if you throw more career interceptions than TD passes unless you're Joe Namath. 4. The Cardinals will always stink so long as the Bidwell family owns them.

Now that you're armed with that information, you should hire Eugene Parker to negotiate a new deal for you, return to the Miami Dolphins, ask the NFL for a medicinal waiver for your marijuana use, and prove the fifth and final absolute truth -- that you need a strong running game to make the playoffs.

Ricky, it just may be that you're not out of your mind on this one, as some have written.

It may be that everyone else is.

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