Onlookers must have been tempted to administer a breathalyzer to Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs on the spot.
"I want to say a big thanks to Drew Rosenhaus …"
Yep. Gibbs said that last week, after finalizing a new contract for wide receiver Santana Moss. One of the most respected coaches in the business – and an old school guy, at that – thanked Drew Rosenhaus. Twice. And yet, it went almost entirely unnoticed.
To be fair, Gibbs is still trying to get another Rosenhaus client, safety Sean Taylor, into the fold. But it was interesting to see how such a moment played out in the media, where Rosenhaus is made out to be the villain on a consistent basis.
When Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said this week that wide receiver Terrell Owens was getting bad advice from Rosenhaus, it was big news. When Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre questioned wide receiver Javon Walker following Rosenhaus' advice, it was the stuff of headlines. And when Gibbs thanked Rosenhaus for working overtime to put the Moss deal to bed, it was an afterthought.
Nobody is rushing to defend Rosenhaus, who didn't return a call for comment this week. But few are putting the perceived wave of NFL hate for the Miami-based agent into perspective. While he has several high-profile contract squabbles that have some fans ready to declare Jihad, Rosenhaus' track record for success is being overwhelmingly ignored.
As it stands, there are four Rosenhaus clients that appear likely to hold out when training camp begins: Owens, Walker, Taylor and Cleveland Browns running back Reuben Droughns. Two others could potentially join that list – New Orleans Saints cornerback Mike McKenzie and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin (who has rejoined his team's offseason workouts as a "good faith" gesture). Lost in the wake of those six players is a Rosenhaus stable that could bloat to more than 90 NFL players by the time the regular season kicks off. Which means roughly 94 percent of Rosenhaus' clients have found some level of appeasement for the 2005 season.
"He deserves credit for that," an NFC executive said. "When you negotiate deals, you realize that's an immense amount of work. [He's worked] deals for almost two full NFL rosters.
"No agent has perfect harmony every year, either, unless they [are representing] a very small number of players. [But] Drew gets a bad name with that mercenary image. He's in position to be the [agent] who will go head first into bloody renegotiations."
Because of that image, a large part of Rosenhaus' success gets washed out. Aside from the Santana Moss deal, Rosenhaus pieced together a five-year, $31.5 million pact for Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Marcus Stroud and salvaged a six-year, $25 million deal between the New York Giants and wide receiver Plaxico Burress. In an even longer view, there are some who believe Rosenhaus has brokered more contracts between players and teams than any agent in the history of the NFL. Yet, that is mostly an afterthought now that he's engaged in the ugliness between Owens and the Eagles.
Within it all, there is a reality that doesn't get publicized. Rosenhaus is attempting to do what he's paid for – secure the best possible deal he can for his clients, as soon as he can. It's much the same way a team raises ticket prices when it wins the Super Bowl, or asks an aging player to take a pay cut that reflects his output on the field. Certainly, Rosenhaus' tactics can be questioned, especially when it involves having clients hold out and tearing up contracts with multiple years remaining.
But it's also worth noting that Rosenhaus' players are not mindless drones, who simply follow his orders. Maybe the most telling negotiations aren't with teams like Philadelphia, Green Bay or Washington. Maybe they are with Carolina and Miami, where two Rosenhaus clients – Panthers linebacker Dan Morgan and Dolphins tight end Randy McMichael – are seeking contract extensions. Despite neither of them having a finished deal, both are taking part in all of their team's offseason activities and plan to report for training camp.
When asked why they weren't holding out for new deals like other Rosenhaus clients, their answer was simple: Because they don't want to.
- You could have seen the plan of Saints owner Tom Benson coming a mile away last week, when he cut off negotiations with state officials over his stadium lease until after the 2005 season. Many in the NFL expected that to ramp up the "Saints to Los Angeles" talk, and only a few days later, Benson's attorney said franchise relocation is something he would be interested in.
Benson has a clause in his Superdome lease that would allow him to bolt after the 2005 season, and it seems like a realistic option with the NFL attempting to get a franchise into Los Angeles by the end of the decade. Even now, relocation seems almost certain in the L.A. scenario, since the league isn't likely to upset its current divisional balance of 32 teams by adding another franchise.
Still, the Saints haven't applied for relocation, and it would be hard to imagine NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue supporting the move. As a city, New Orleans remains one of the most attractive locations for a franchise, even with the Superdome in its current dilapidated state. It's highly unlikely Benson would get the 24 votes required from the 32 NFL owners to approve relocation.
- It's clear the Browns are a little rattled over the backlash toward tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. after his recent motorcycle accident. But the team is making the situation worse by not being up front about the extent of Winslow's injuries. Despite leaks indicating Winslow has torn his ACL, the Browns continue to hedge when pressed for details, saying more tests need to be done to determine the extent of the damage.
Here's a little thought: If Winslow has been released from the hospital and is already talking about rehabilitation, then the Browns know what's wrong. Just release the information and stop dragging it out. It only makes it look like the team has something to hide.
- Don't discount the possibility of Ty Law landing with the Detroit Lions. Not only did Law visit with Lions officials this week, but the team went into the draft targeting Auburn cornerback Carlos Rogers with the No. 10 pick in the draft (Rogers was chosen No. 9 by the Redskins). This should be a pretty clear indication of what the Lions think of No. 2 cornerback Fernando Bryant, who had a disappointing 2004 after being signed as a free agent.
- Expect the NFL Players Association to raise a huge stink if the league suspends Minnesota running back Onterrio Smith, who was detained in an airport last month and found to be carrying a kit used to cheat drug testing. Smith has already been punished twice (including a four-game suspension last season) for violating the league's substance abuse guidelines. A third violation would result in a yearlong suspension. While the league considers substituted urine samples as a violation, it's going to have a hard time proving Smith used the device – which he told police belonged to his cousin.
- Drew Rosenhaus