Since we’re about five hours from the baseball trade deadline and I hear only crickets, I wanted to weigh in on something before players are scheduled to check in tonight for Falcons training camp: Lay off Roddy White.
Honestly, of all the things I’ve anticipated writing one day, defending White’s position in contract negotiations wasn’t one of them. He wasn’t a bust in his first two NFL seasons — he was whatever is south of that. A bust is someone who was thought to be able to play but can’t. South of that is someone who can play but just seems to have brain lock or keeps tripping over his own ego.
Case in point: DeAngelo Hall.
For his first two seasons, that was White. He was lazy. He was immature. He lacked focus. He dropped passes. He had 29 passes in his first season and 30 in his second, and for a while there I wasn’t sure if the Falcons would give him a third. But he started to turn into a receiver in year three and last season he played his way into the Pro Bowl, with career highs of 88 catches, 1,382 yards (a franchise record) and seven touchdowns.
Today, Roddy White is one of the premier receivers in the NFL. Probably top 10. He wants to be paid like it. Frankly, I don’t blame him. He has a year left on his contract, and before you start pounding your keyboard with the typical response — “He’s selfish! He’s disloyal! He won’t honor his contract!” — you need to understand that NFL players live in a different world than other pro athletes. In fact, they live in a different from almost anybody. NFL contracts are not fully guaranteed.
White’s original “five-year” contract, like every NFL “five-year” contract, is really more like a series of one-year contracts. White’s original $7.3 million contract had only $4.75 million guaranteed. The Falcons could’ve dumped him after season two or three and paid him only the minimal (if any) remaining guarantee. Loyalty is a two-way street.
I’m not debating the NFL’s system — the players union accepts that in the Collective Bargaining Agreement so I’m not going to argue. But you can’t expect a player to NOT debate his value with time left on his contract when ownership does the same thing after every season.
Given the way the Falcons have operated under owner Arthur Blank, I have little doubt the team will take care of White. But if the receiver chooses to hold out when training camp opens Saturday in Flowery Branch, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Withholding services is his only leverage. He should use it.
Because if the Falcons dumped White two years ago and didn’t pay him the remaing $2.55 million left on his contract, nobody would’ve said a word.