- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 4, 2004

You knew as soon as Larry Fitzgerald’s contract figures came out that they’d cause a problem with a Certain Someone. That’s been the pattern so far with Sean Taylor, the Redskins’ headline-hogging first-round pick. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.

First he fires his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Then he skips out on the NFL’s annual symposium for rookies, a transgression for which he’s fined $25,000. (Naturally, he’s appealing.) Then he fires his new agents, Jeff Moorad, Eugene Mato and Scott Parker, for negotiating a deal that only brought him a $13.1million signing bonus compared to the $20million in bonuses Fitzgerald, drafted two spots earlier, will get from the Cardinals.

Great, huh? A rookie who draws a significant fine before he’s even under contract — and who goes through agents the way his boss, Dan Snyder, goes through coaches. (We won’t even talk about the shaving cream pie-in-the-face that left him temporarily sightless or the sprained knee during pre-training camp drills, though both suggest Seriously Bad Karma.)

Before the draft, I questioned whether Taylor was a good fit for the Gibbsskins. “He appears to have a little LaVar Arrington in him,” I wrote — meaning he was a bit of a contrarian, a bit of a rebel without a cause, a bit of a soloist. “Do the Redskins,” I asked, “really want a safety who’s wired like LaVar Arrington … playing behind a linebacker who is LaVar Arrington?”

Boy, was I wrong. Taylor is nothing like Arrington, as it turns out. Compared to Sean, LaVar is an island of sanity, the very picture of reliability.

Maybe Taylor should take a trip to Ethiopia with Shawn Springs, so he can gain some perspective on life and get rid of this silly chip on his shoulder. After all, if he plays the way a top-five pick is supposed to play the next seven years — that is, at the Pro Bowl level — he could make as much as $40million. He’s already due to receive more than $13million in automatic dough before he makes a single tackle in the NFL. How many safeties, in all of pro football history, have been paid as much as he’ll likely be paid? Ten? Five? I’m guessing fewer than that.

And the kid’s griping?

“Those things are non-football things,” defensive boss Gregg Williams says of Taylor’s adventures with agents. “I don’t pay any attention to those.” Don’t worry, though, Williams adds, “he’s not going to be distracted. On the field, he’s a football player.”

If I were the Redskins, I would worry. “Those things,” as Williams calls them, can poison a player’s mind just as thoroughly as a demotion on the depth chart. Guys who are unhappy with their contracts, guys who feel they’ve been wronged, often play beneath their abilities. And the younger the guy, the harder it usually is for him to deal with that unhappiness, to set it aside and go about his business. It’s a maturity thing.

If you ask me, Taylor is a Renegotiation Waiting to Happen. The moment he feels he has any kind of leverage on the Redskins — if, indeed, he waits that long — he’ll hold out or walk out or do something else dramatic.

Paranoia can come in handy on the football field, but it can be a real nuisance in business dealings. Too many players don’t seem to realize that a contract can only be judged on the day it’s signed. Anything that happens afterward is beyond everyone’s control. If, a week later, the Cardinals want to throw a record bonus at the third pick in the draft, well, that’s the luck of the draw. If it was so important to Taylor what Fitzgerald got, he shouldn’t have signed until Larry did.

God help the Redskins if Kellen Winslow Jr., the player taken right after Taylor, negotiates a better deal. Their Free Safety of the Future might start phoning in sick.

You get the feeling Taylor is either (a) listening to too many people, or (b) listening to no one. He needs to find someone he can trust — if such a person exists — so he can find his way out of the hole he’s dug for himself and begin to repair his tattered image. It’s still early in the game. A lot of his behavior can be dismissed as the mistakes of youth … as long as he doesn’t keep pulling stunts like this.

Right now, though, he comes across as the quintessential spoiled athlete, a player who’s never happy with anything for long. The kind of guy who’d call up the front desk at the Redskins’ hotel and complain that his sheets “don’t smell lemon-y fresh.” Joe Gibbs came out of retirement for this?

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