- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 2, 2003

The Washington Redskins and agent Jack Reale tabled talks to extend cornerback Champ Bailey’s contract yesterday, and the three-time Pro Bowl player broke his silence on the subject, questioning whether the team ever was serious about signing him.

“I don’t think so, not really,” Bailey said late in the afternoon at Redskin Park. “I mean, I don’t know. I really don’t know. Maybe they were. Of course, the offer really didn’t do much for me. That was obvious. Ya’ll saw that.”

Sources close to the talks said there were two reasons for the temporary break: The Redskins wanted a faster pace to negotiations, and Bailey’s camp believed the club wouldn’t discuss substantially different figures until some sort of hard deadline neared — such as the end of the season, at which point there would be salary cap ramifications for waiting longer.

Although Bailey’s camp never made a counterproposal, it was clear there was a “considerable amount of work to do,” according to one source.

Bailey had at least nine points of contention with the nine-year, $55 million proposal the Redskins made Aug. 17, sources said in the days that followed. The club, meanwhile, took a hard-line stance and appeared unwilling to budge much off its initial offer.

The official word, of course, focused on avoiding distractions before Thursday’s opener against the New York Jets.

“Jack and I have mutually agreed to table the discussion,” Redskins contract specialist Eric Schaffer said in a statement. “We hope toward the end of the season to pick up our fast-paced negotiations. We’re looking forward to getting something done that works long term for both sides. The Redskins appreciate Jack’s personal attention.”

Reale said by telephone: “Both parties agreed to put football front and center. Rather than have a distraction to start the season, we’ll just put things aside for now and see where it goes.”

Bailey just shrugged when interviewed as he left the complex. Although he had declined comment in recent weeks, saying he was leaving talks to Reale, his tone made clear he was wary of negotiations and whether they would be fruitful.

Yesterday, he said just what he was thinking — that he was more likely to give up a 90-yard touchdown to an undrafted rookie than see a deal struck.

“Not by the way things were going,” Bailey said. “We were at a standstill for the last two weeks. I don’t think anything was going to happen anytime soon anyway.”

Bailey’s problems with the proposal were widespread, sources said, starting with the size of the $14.7 million “signing bonus.” That amalgamation of payments actually was a combination of true signing bonus, option bonus and roster bonus, and it included a restructuring of money he already is scheduled to make this season.

Bailey also wanted more money in true signing bonus and less in the option; a higher average per year; no eighth or ninth seasons; no workout bonuses (which would dictate where he lived); no insurance policy, which he was asked to buy and which would benefit the team; and a less extended payment plan on the “up-front” bonuses.

People who work on both sides of NFL contracts — on the players’ side and teams’ side — acknowledged the validity of Bailey’s points in recent weeks without necessarily agreeing with each one. Conversations with those people and sources close to the talks made clear that no deal would get done anytime soon.

Plus, the Redskins had little incentive to make a deal now rather than late in the season. Extending Bailey in, say, December would have the same salary cap impact and a beneficial effect on the team’s cash flow, and they would get more time to evaluate him and let him hold the injury risk.

However, the team wouldn’t want to wait until after the season, because it would lose the ability to prorate Bailey’s signing bonus into the 2003 cap. Thus, a late December signing is optimal; it’s no coincidence that tackle Jon Jansen signed his six-year, $25 million extension on Dec. 19 last season.

If late-season talks fail, the Redskins probably would clear space under the 2004 cap to give Bailey the franchise tag, which is projected to cost between $6.5 million and $7 million of cap room.

The tag would all but preclude Bailey from signing with another team because the compensation is two first-round picks. Washington then would explore further talks, weigh offers to trade Bailey and brace for holdouts from minicamp, training camp and possibly even the regular season.

It’s an ugly situation that last visited Redskin Park in 2000, when Stephen Davis was named franchise player. Davis ended up reporting to camp two days late and signing a nine-year, $90 million deal just before the season. Bailey witnessed that battle first-hand, and yesterday said he wasn’t ready to think about the tag.

“I don’t know how I’ll feel at the time,” Bailey said. “Of course, any player that’s had that done to them in the past, I didn’t think that was a great thing for the team, but they’ll do anything to keep you around and not pay you what you’re worth.”

That was among Bailey’s measured shots at the Redskins. In another instance, he took exception when asked whether he was disappointed that talks were over for now.

“You would think they would be disappointed,” he said. “You always ask about me being disappointed. You figure they would want to keep the guys they want here. It’s all in their hands. They run the show. I’m a player. I can just go out and play games. That’s all I can do. I’ll let the rest take care of itself.”

And in perhaps the most ominous statement, Bailey declined comment when asked whether he had reconsidered how much he wants to remain a Redskin.

“I really won’t say much about that,” Bailey said. “I mean, I’m just going to play football. I’ll let that take care of itself. No comment on that.”

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