Raji’s location is not the issue

Rookie defensive lineman B.J. Raji left the Green Bay area this week, with his contract situation still unresolved. It made some headlines, but it’s a mere formality at this point. Not all that important. Raji could be on his way back to Green Bay with a simple phone call; but at this point it will take much more than one phone call to get the sides together on a deal.

As is the case with many of the draft pick stalemates going on right now (Jacksonville and Eugene Monroe, Cincy and Andre Smith, in particular), the player’s camp does not feel like what’s being offered is in line with what that slot should receive, and not enough of an increase from last year’s slot. And even some league execs whom I have spoken to maintain that if you’re not willing to pay the huge guarantees that come with taking a kid in the first eight picks, then make every effort to trade down instead of enduring holdouts every year.

In Raji’s case, the sides are not close on any total package, guarantees, much of anything. And it’s not fair to paint everyone with the same broad brush. Yes, Michael Crabtree is trying to get a contract thoroughly out of whack for what the 10th pick should expect … but that’s not true in many of these other cases. Some teams traditionally try to hold a hard line on slotting (and overall spending), and that often leads to rookies being out of camp this team of year.

And while Crabtree’s demands are being blamed for the logjam of unsigned players from picks 6-11, that’s not the sole culprit here. Many of the teams and agents around that pick are ready to play ball, and it’s not just a matter of waiting to see if Crabtree gets $30 million. It’s simply a deep-rooted stalemate over what those sides believe is the value of that draft slot, regardless of whatever Crabtree does or does not get from San Francisco.

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