Unless they’re in the throes of negotiations, it’s likely the Arizona Cardinals and Patrick Peterson’s agent, Joel Segal, are talking about once a month as they determine the value of Peterson’s contract extension, according to one former NFL general manager.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik, now an ESPN NFL Insider, put on his GM hat one more time and gave a front office perspective on how negotiations with elite players typically unfold.
Dominik, who was the Bucs GM from 2009-13 and was replaced in January by former Arizona vice president of player personnel Jason Licht, said contracts like Peterson’s aren’t in the same stratosphere as quarterbacks’ deals but they’re close.
“You’re dealing with elite players, top-20 players in the whole entire National Football League,” Dominik said. “They are a little more sensitive. They are a little more difficult to walk through and to get done.
“The money’s significant. It’s a gigantic commitment to a player, especially when you look at the guarantees like [Cleveland cornerback] Joe Haden just pulled and [Seattle cornerback Richard] Sherman’s. There’s really no way out of those. The guarantee and the real money is spent when you’re trying to budget not just 2014 but you’re trying to look at 2017 and 2018 and how do we fit all these players into the gap. You always have to keep that in mind.”
Dominik wasn’t surprised when he saw Haden’s and Sherman’s contracts. It just proved that teams are willing to pay for elite cornerbacks, of which he believes there are four: Peterson, Sherman, Haden and Darrelle Revis.
Three of those have received mega contracts in the past couple of years. Peterson is up next.
But time is of the essence, Dominik said, one way or the other.
The Cardinals can use it to their benefit, volleying for a hometown discount if they sign Peterson two years before the end of his contract. But, Dominik added, it’s not pressing for the Cardinals to get a contract done in 2014. Peterson’s camp, however, can also wait it out. If Peterson wants more money, Dominik said he can wait until next offseason because then the pressure to get a deal done starts to increase with just one more year left on Peterson’s deal.
“Two years left, I would think Arizona is coming from a perspective of, ‘I won’t pay you the top dollar but I’m going to put you way up there because you are one of the top corners in the National Football League,’” Dominik said.
One tightrope the Cardinals may be walking is the perception they’re giving to the rest of their locker room. They want to maintain harmony, especially with one of their cornerstones, and they want to show other players that they’ll take care of them when their time comes.
Dominik said negotiating with a player on his own team was different than working on a deal for a free agent or a trade. When the Bucs acquired Revis in April 2013, Dominik said he had 24-48 hours to work out a deal.
With Peterson, the Cardinals can take their time.
If the two sides are talking once a month at this point, Dominik said it’s usually to touch base. At this point, Dominik believes they’re talking about the overall value of the contract and if Arizona will get a hometown discount for signing Peterson now.
As the negotiations heat up the two parties will begin talking once a week, then every other day.
Dominik figures Peterson’s deal will be either a four- or five-year extension. That, Dominik added, may be the easiest part of the negotiations. What both sides need to determine is what’s important to Peterson. After five years of negotiating deals, Dominik may have it figured out.
“It’s all about the guaranteed money,” he said. “How much is really guaranteed. The average per year can be a little misleading. The guarantee is what it’s all about. I think that’s what Patrick is going to be pushing for more than just the average per year.”
Peterson will likely want to eclipse the guarantees of Sherman ($40 million) and Haden ($45 million).
If the two sides can’t agree on a contract within the next two years, the Cardinals can always franchise Peterson in 2016.
“You don’t want to lose him and I think that’s where it starts,” Dominik said. “If you can’t get a deal done, the last thing you want to do is see a guy walk away that you feel is an elite player. It’s a possibility. We’re just starting to get into it with this class being really the first class to go into the unknown of the new CBA and the new rookie deals.
“You want to try to do everything you can to lock him up long term and they give you more time to do so.”
Dominik also said the new CBA, which went into effect during Peterson’s rookie year of 2011, makes it difficult -- if not impossible -- for players to hold out.
The biggest catch in negotiations can be the result of Arizona’s desire to get Peterson signed, Dominik said. Peterson can reject the Cardinals’ offers for two years and then decline to sign a franchise tender, which would lead to a hold out.
“That’s probably the biggest snag,” Dominik said. “Where is Arizona’s desire to get something done? And how much of the apple does Patrick Peterson and his agent want to take a bite of?”
With the baseline established for Peterson's extension, it’s up to the Cardinals and Segal to hash out a deal that works for both sides. Even though the circumstances were different when Dominik signed Revis to a six-year, $96 million contract without any guaranteed money, Dominik has an idea of how much Peterson may be worth.
He just won’t say it.
“I’ll let [Cardinals president] Michael Bidwill figure that one out,” Dominik said with a laugh.