When key players want to change teams, blame the teams not the players

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Khalil Mack wanted out of Oakland. He got what he wanted.

Antonio Brown wanted out of Pittsburgh. Then he wanted out of Oakland. He got what he wanted, both times.

Minkah Fitzpatrick wanted out of Miami. He got what he wanted.

Jalen Ramsey wants out of Jacksonville. He may get what he wants. Other great players, like Jamal Adams, may want out of where they currently are, and they may get it.

Some think that’s a bad thing. That it makes the NFL too much like the NBA. ESPN’s Steve Young, a lawyer who should know illegal collusion when he’s advocating for it, wants NFL teams to band together to stop players from talking, or tweeting, their way out of their current cities.

Of course, Young wanted out of Tampa Bay after the Bucs drafted Vinny Testaverde in 1987, and Young got what he wanted. He got what he wanted because the Buccaneers gave him what he wanted.

If today’s teams are willing to give players what they want in lieu of playing hardball under the labor deal to keep them in place, that’s for the teams to decide. Having a trade market for a disgruntled player becomes irrelevant if his current team tells the player, “Play for us or play for no one.”

The problem ultimately traces to the failure of the team to keep a key player happy. If Ramsey no longer wants to play for the Jaguars, and if the Jaguars want to keep him, shame on the Jaguars for letting it get to the point where he wants out. The coaching staff failed to establish and maintain the right relationship with Ramsey, the front office failed to take care of him financially when the opportunity arose, or both. (In this case, the right answer indeed seems to be “both.”)

The best players in the NFL at their various positions get special treatment because they deserve it. If supreme talent can secure umpteen chances for guys who get in trouble off the field, why shouldn’t model citizens who also play the game at ridiculously high levels merit extra care and feeding in order to ensure that they choose to continue to be cared for and fed by the team that holds their rights?

If the Jaguars want to keep Ramsey, it’s not difficult. Kiss his ass. Pay him. Make him feel wanted. Make him feel special. Because he is.

And if the Jaguars don’t want him — if they don’t want to treat him in a way that makes him feel wanted — they should get what they can and trade him.

Still, the goal of the draft is to select players who have the potential to become great and then to keep the ones that become great. It’s for the teams to do whatever needs to be done to make the great ones want to stay. If the relationship becomes fractured, it’s not the player’s fault. It’s the team’s fault.