Rendering verdicts in the Haynesworth, Revis, Johnson (and more) contract disputes

With NFL training camps in full swing, several high-profile campers aren’t very happy with their contracts right now. So let’s take a look at each situation, rendering a verdict as to whether the team or the player is on the right side of the dispute.

Albert Haynesworth vs. the Redskins.

It’s easy — and fair — to blame Haynesworth for the present mess. He pocketed $21 million on April 1, and then he thumbed his nose at the entire offseason program, including a mandatory minicamp. As a result, he entered camp at a huge disadvantage as the team changes from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4.

Redskins blew a chance to send Albert Haynesworth packing.
Redskins blew a chance to send Albert Haynesworth packing.

Compounding matters is his chronic failure to pass a conditioning test that ESPN’s Mike Golic, a middle-aged ex-jock who hasn’t suited up in years, somehow managed to successfully complete.

But the Redskins bear plenty of blame, too. For starters, they never should have signed the guy to a contract worth more than $40 million guaranteed, and they definitely shouldn’t have cut a check for $21 million on April 1. Moreover, coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to switch to a 3-4 defense provided Haynesworth with a handy excuse for inserting a stick into a place where sticks usually don’t go.

Finally, Shanahan’s decision to compel Haynesworth to pass a conditioning test, even though no one else on the team had to do it, comes off as punitive and, with the player now even farther behind in learning the new defense, foolish.

So while it’s tempting to lay it all on Haynesworth, the Redskins created the monster, they’ve kept him fed, and when it was clear he was ready to storm the village, they passed on their chance to run him out of town altogether.

Verdict: Tie.

Darrelle Revis vs. the Jets.

Unlike other situations in which the player stood up and asked for more, the Jets sparked this dispute by approaching Revis’ agents only two days after losing to the Colts in the AFC title game and indicating a desire to tear up a deal that has three years left on it. Coupled with the repeated proclamations from coach Rex Ryan that Revis is the best defensive player in the game, it doesn’t take an advanced degree in math, economics, or basket weaving to come to the conclusion that Revis’ new deal should eclipse the $15.1 million annual average paid by the Raiders to cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

Jets made their own bed in dispute with Darrelle Revis over contract.
Jets made their own bed in dispute with Darrelle Revis over contract.

By all accounts, the Jets didn’t say "Asomugha’s deal is insane" or "the labor deal prevents us from giving you the kind of guaranteed money you may want." Instead, they told the best defensive player in the game (according to their coach) that they wanted to replace the last three years of a deal set to pay him $21 million with something more.

So it’s hard to blame Revis for taking a stand, especially after seeing teammate Leon Washington take a tumble last year, resulting in a broken leg and a blown opportunity to get a long-term contract — and after seeing other teammates believe that the front office has made promises that have gone unfulfilled.

And now the Jets are only making the situation worse, offering up hollow excuses for not doing the deal the way it needs to be done and subtly characterizing Revis as greedy.

Though Revis had little or no leverage when this process began, he has all of it now. If the Jets fail to get the deal done, they will have alienated one of their key players, and they will have made it considerably harder to satisfy the looming "Super Bowl or bust" expectations.

Verdict: Revis.

Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill vs. the Chargers.

The Chargers should easily win the AFC West once again. The bigger question is whether they can secure home-field advantage in the postseason, and whether they then can hold serve. For a change.

To do that, they need receiver Vincent Jackson and left tackle Marcus McNeill under contract. Due to the nuances of the uncapped year, which for years many assumed would favor the players, the Chargers have had the ability to put the screws to this duo who form part of their nucleus. GM A.J. Smith didn’t have to stick it to them, but he has chosen to do so.

The Chargers possibly have opted to take a bullet for the league within the confines of the broader labor tug-o-war, harming the team’s short-term interests in the hopes of keeping as much money as possible out of the players’ pockets in advance of a possible lockout. The problem with this approach is that it hurts the Chargers, and it jeopardizes the health of their franchise quarterback.

Verdict: Jackson and McNeill.

Chris Johnson vs. the Titans.

Throughout the 2010 offseason, the 2009 offensive player of the year complained about a contract that was set to pay him only $550,000 in base salary. Eventually, the Titans reluctantly shifted some future money from 2012, bumping his compensation in the coming season to $2 million.

Recently, Johnson said he’s still not happy with his contract. And for good reason. Running backs get ridden hard and put away broken. The time to cash in comes early in one’s career, before ligaments are frayed and cartilage has been sucked out of joints through a surgical straw.

So while Johnson remains motivated to have a massive season, he’d be even more motivated if he were making more money. If the Titans were smart, they’d give it to him.

Verdict: Johnson.

Logan Mankins vs. the Patriots.

The same dynamic that has unfolded in San Diego has occurred much more quietly in New England. Guard Logan Mankins has scoffed at the one-year free agency tender in excess of $3 million, and the team has exercised its right under the labor deal to cut his offer to less than $2 million when he didn’t sign it by June 15.

Mankins wants a big-money, long-term deal. Since he knows he’s not getting it, he wants out.

Here’s the key point — he’s an interior offensive linemen. Many teams regard guards and centers as largely fungible. The Pats, who have used plenty of no-names on the O-line over the years, apparently are one of those teams. And if anyone else believed Mankins was truly worth big money, the Pats’ phone would be ringing. It isn’t, and, by all appearances, it won’t.

Verdict: Patriots.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

With NFL training camps in full swing, several high-profile campers aren’t very happy with their contracts right now. So let’s take a look at each situation, rendering a verdict as to whether the team or the player is on the right side of the dispute.

Albert Haynesworth vs. the Redskins.

It’s easy — and fair — to blame Haynesworth for the present mess. He pocketed $21 million on April 1, and then he thumbed his nose at the entire offseason program, including a mandatory minicamp. As a result, he entered camp at a huge disadvantage as the team changes from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4.

Redskins blew a chance to send Albert Haynesworth packing.
Redskins blew a chance to send Albert Haynesworth packing.

Compounding matters is his chronic failure to pass a conditioning test that ESPN’s Mike Golic, a middle-aged ex-jock who hasn’t suited up in years, somehow managed to successfully complete.

But the Redskins bear plenty of blame, too. For starters, they never should have signed the guy to a contract worth more than $40 million guaranteed, and they definitely shouldn’t have cut a check for $21 million on April 1. Moreover, coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to switch to a 3-4 defense provided Haynesworth with a handy excuse for inserting a stick into a place where sticks usually don’t go.

Finally, Shanahan’s decision to compel Haynesworth to pass a conditioning test, even though no one else on the team had to do it, comes off as punitive and, with the player now even farther behind in learning the new defense, foolish.

So while it’s tempting to lay it all on Haynesworth, the Redskins created the monster, they’ve kept him fed, and when it was clear he was ready to storm the village, they passed on their chance to run him out of town altogether.

Verdict: Tie.

Darrelle Revis vs. the Jets.

Unlike other situations in which the player stood up and asked for more, the Jets sparked this dispute by approaching Revis’ agents only two days after losing to the Colts in the AFC title game and indicating a desire to tear up a deal that has three years left on it. Coupled with the repeated proclamations from coach Rex Ryan that Revis is the best defensive player in the game, it doesn’t take an advanced degree in math, economics, or basket weaving to come to the conclusion that Revis’ new deal should eclipse the $15.1 million annual average paid by the Raiders to cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

Jets made their own bed in dispute with Darrelle Revis over contract.
Jets made their own bed in dispute with Darrelle Revis over contract.

By all accounts, the Jets didn’t say "Asomugha’s deal is insane" or "the labor deal prevents us from giving you the kind of guaranteed money you may want." Instead, they told the best defensive player in the game (according to their coach) that they wanted to replace the last three years of a deal set to pay him $21 million with something more.

So it’s hard to blame Revis for taking a stand, especially after seeing teammate Leon Washington take a tumble last year, resulting in a broken leg and a blown opportunity to get a long-term contract — and after seeing other teammates believe that the front office has made promises that have gone unfulfilled.

And now the Jets are only making the situation worse, offering up hollow excuses for not doing the deal the way it needs to be done and subtly characterizing Revis as greedy.

Though Revis had little or no leverage when this process began, he has all of it now. If the Jets fail to get the deal done, they will have alienated one of their key players, and they will have made it considerably harder to satisfy the looming "Super Bowl or bust" expectations.

Verdict: Revis.

Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill vs. the Chargers.

The Chargers should easily win the AFC West once again. The bigger question is whether they can secure home-field advantage in the postseason, and whether they then can hold serve. For a change.

To do that, they need receiver Vincent Jackson and left tackle Marcus McNeill under contract. Due to the nuances of the uncapped year, which for years many assumed would favor the players, the Chargers have had the ability to put the screws to this duo who form part of their nucleus. GM A.J. Smith didn’t have to stick it to them, but he has chosen to do so.

The Chargers possibly have opted to take a bullet for the league within the confines of the broader labor tug-o-war, harming the team’s short-term interests in the hopes of keeping as much money as possible out of the players’ pockets in advance of a possible lockout. The problem with this approach is that it hurts the Chargers, and it jeopardizes the health of their franchise quarterback.

Verdict: Jackson and McNeill.

Chris Johnson vs. the Titans.

Throughout the 2010 offseason, the 2009 offensive player of the year complained about a contract that was set to pay him only $550,000 in base salary. Eventually, the Titans reluctantly shifted some future money from 2012, bumping his compensation in the coming season to $2 million.

Recently, Johnson said he’s still not happy with his contract. And for good reason. Running backs get ridden hard and put away broken. The time to cash in comes early in one’s career, before ligaments are frayed and cartilage has been sucked out of joints through a surgical straw.

So while Johnson remains motivated to have a massive season, he’d be even more motivated if he were making more money. If the Titans were smart, they’d give it to him.

Verdict: Johnson.

Logan Mankins vs. the Patriots.

The same dynamic that has unfolded in San Diego has occurred much more quietly in New England. Guard Logan Mankins has scoffed at the one-year free agency tender in excess of $3 million, and the team has exercised its right under the labor deal to cut his offer to less than $2 million when he didn’t sign it by June 15.

Mankins wants a big-money, long-term deal. Since he knows he’s not getting it, he wants out.

Here’s the key point — he’s an interior offensive linemen. Many teams regard guards and centers as largely fungible. The Pats, who have used plenty of no-names on the O-line over the years, apparently are one of those teams. And if anyone else believed Mankins was truly worth big money, the Pats’ phone would be ringing. It isn’t, and, by all appearances, it won’t.

Verdict: Patriots.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

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