Give the San Francisco 49ers credit: Their hard-line approach in filing tampering charges against the New York Jets may not result in a penalty against the Jets, but it did force wide receiver Michael Crabtree to finally agree on a contract with the 49ers.
Crabtree agreed to a six-year deal with San Francisco early Wednesday morning after missing all of training camp and the first four games of the season. The deal includes a sixth year that voids if Crabtree has two great seasons in his first four years. The 49ers face Atlanta on Sunday; it's unclear if Crabtree will play.
According to a league source, any hope that Crabtree and agent Eugene Parker had of manipulating the NFL draft process to get a better deal next year by sitting out this season evaporated when the 49ers filed the tampering charge. While proving tampering against the Jets will be a long shot, any scenario under which Crabtree was paid more than what he would have received this year would have been put under great scrutiny.
"I don't know if anything would ever have been proved, but I can tell you this: People were running from this mess," the source said. "They didn't want to have anything to do with it. They didn't want to be associated with it. I think Crabtree and [agent Eugene Parker] would have had a really tough sell with any team next year for a lot of reasons."
One way to look at Crabtree's deal: If Crabtree doesn't have two great seasons in his first four, it's unlikely the 49ers would want to pay him $4 million in the sixth year of his contract unless he demonstrated significant impact in the fifth.
Of course, there's a long time before that plays out.
In the immediate, Crabtree got boxed in as a result of his adviser, NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders. When Sanders said on NFL Network that two other teams had expressed interest in Crabtree and were willing to pay him more than the slot commensurate with the No. 10 pick this year, San Francisco owner Jed York went on the warpath. Eventually, that contributed to the tampering charge against the Jets, which is still being investigated.
Worst of all, it has put Sanders in the position of having to answer questions in order to keep his job with the league, according to the aforementioned NFL source. Considering Sanders was also represented by Parker, that puts Parker in a potentially bad situation even if he never talked with the NFL.
Thus, if there were any backdoor deals being worked by Parker, they evaporated quickly. In short, the idea that Crabtree could somehow get drafted higher or command more money after sitting out one season and being only one year removed from free agency (draft-eligible players who sit out for two seasons become unrestricted free agents), seemed patently absurd.
In fact, one general manager said last week that the only way he would draft Crabtree next year is if Crabtree agreed to a contract on draft day.
"I'd negotiate the contract right then and there in the 10 minutes you have for the pick," the GM said. "If you didn't have a signature faxed back to you by the end of the call, you take somebody else … you can't take that risk for your team that you get nothing or you get this situation."
Adding accuracy to repertoire: A tip of the cap to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger(notes), who has completed 73.2 percent of his passes during the first four games of the season. When I watched Roethlisberger his first two years in the league, I never would have thought he could do something like that while throwing as much as he has (a career-high 35 throws a game so far this season) over a four-game stretch. Give him props for a sensational start to the season for a guy who is hardly a precision, timing-oriented thrower.
Speaking of timing and precision: Colts quarterback Peyton Manning(notes) is also off to a torrid start. Through four games, Manning has completed 70.8 percent of his passes and is averaging a career-high 9.8 yards per attempt. That's an incredible stat. Furthermore, Manning has been on a staggering run during his past 13 regular-season games, in which the Colts are undefeated. In that stretch (which included a cameo effort in the season finale last year), Manning has completed 306 of 427 passes (71.7 percent) for 3,684 yards, 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He has also been sacked only seven times.
Sticking with quarterbacks As Byron Leftwich(notes) of the Buccaneers backs up second-year man Josh Johnson(notes), the veteran's actions are still being closely monitored. "We think Byron is going to be that veteran presence who can help young guys handle the ups and downs of learning in this league," Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik said. "He needs to do that to help himself, as well. That's something that Trent Dilfer(notes) really learned toward the end of his career. It's hard because you have a lot of confidence in your own ability and you want to play. But if you can be that guy who's always ready to play and be a help to the younger guys, you can stretch three or four more years out of your career."
Stupid play of the week: Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre(notes) deserves a lot of props for his play against the Green Bay Packers on Monday night. However, his decision to throw deep on third down with around 3:21 remaining in the game up 10 points wasn't smart. First, it stopped the clock. Second, it was really bad form as Favre was obviously trying to run up the score against his old team.
Highly debatable call of the week: Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy's decision to not kick a field goal in the third quarter at the goal line came back to haunt his team in the final minutes when they were down 10 points. McCarthy opted to pass on easy points with a short field-goal attempt that would have cut the deficit to 28-17. Instead, the fourth-down play to Donald Lee(notes) was dropped in the end zone. Subsequently, Green Bay needed two scores instead of one late in the game.
1. New York Giants: They destroy opponents with dignity.
2. New Orleans Saints: The defense is better than beignets at 4 a.m.
3. Indianapolis Colts: Marvin who? Colts doing better without him.
4. New England Patriots: OK, those were some bad calls, but Brady was really good.
5. Minnesota Vikings: Brett Favre was terrific Monday. Jared Allen(notes) was a beast.
28. Oakland Raiders: Dear JaMarcus Russell(notes), you're wasting what could be a great career.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Played a pretty tough game before falling to Washington.
30. St. Louis Rams: Played a pretty awful game while getting kill by San Francisco.
31. Cleveland Browns: Derek Anderson(notes) ain't pretty, but he's always interesting.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Dear Todd Haley, coaching could be hazardous to your health.
This and that
• Oakland rookie wide receiver Louis Murphy(notes), a fourth-round pick, may end up being better than first-round teammate Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes). Through four games, Murphy has 11 catches for 172 yards and a touchdown. Not great, but very good for a fourth-rounder. In addition, Murphy has had two potential catches overturned by review: a TD pass in the opener and a long catch in the loss to Houston on Sunday. As for Heyward-Bey, he has two catches for 36 yards. Brutal.
• NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has put a high priority on communication so that current players won't be surprised by the upcoming labor struggle. As part of that, the union has increased the number of regional reps from four to eight. Part of the reps' role is to better inform players of the issues and get them prepared for a potential lockout in 2011. "He's been really progressive in his thinking about how to communicate with players," former NFL player and union rep Roman Oben(notes) said. "He's very progressive in his ideas on how to inform players and get them ready for what's going to happen. That's something we didn't have before."
• Cincinnati Bengals wideout Chad Ochocinco(notes) toyed with the idea of jumping into the Dawg Pound in Cleveland after the first of his two touchdown catches on Sunday. Maybe he should thank the offensive linemen who prevented the move. The first time Ochocinco did that, one fan poured a beer on him.
• While there has been a lot of debate over the penalty called in the New England game against Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs(notes), at least give quarterback Tom Brady(notes) credit for awareness. Bill Belichick and his staff (as most NFL staffs do) let the players know that the officiating crew led by Ron Winter has thrown more flags over the past three years than any crew in the league and is currently running second in the league this season. If you're going to get a ticky-tack call, Winter is liable to give it to you.
• Props to ESPN for looking up the stats on how many quarterbacks have tried to follow up Dan Marino, John Elway, Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Jim Kelly on their respective teams and how many playoff games those teams have won since they retired. The minimum number of quarterbacks is eight and none of those teams have won more than one playoff game.
• Stat maven Dutch Wydo, who doubles as the unofficial president of the Ben Roethlisberger Fan Club, passed along some interesting numbers this week. Through the first four games, the Indianapolis Colts are averaging 2.7 yards more per play than their opponents. The next best team in the league is Denver at 1.8 yards more per play. Any team that's over 1.0 yard more is generally in good shape to make the playoffs.
- Michael Crabtree
- San Francisco
- Deion Sanders