Beason's agent: Panthers bargaining in bad faith

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The Carolina Panthers are taking a
stand against a new kind of NFL contract, and their protest could
lead to a lengthy holdout for first-round pick Jon Beason.

Following a court ruling earlier this year that made it risky
for teams to offer so-called second-year "option bonuses," the
Panthers are refusing to offer one to Beason, said his agent,
Michael Huyghue. He called it the main stumbling block between the
club and Beason, who entered the third day of his holdout Monday.

Huyghue told The Associated Press the Panthers initially offered
a contract with the option bonus, only to yank it off the table 24
hours later. He claims the team is negotiating in bad faith, since
most of the other first-round picks who have signed received deals
that include an option bonus.

General manager Marty Hurney, who said Friday the two sides were
"miles apart," declined Monday to answer questions about the

"We have said all along that we don't comment publicly on
player negotiations," Hurney said. "This puts out just one
version of the story."

Beason's holdout has left the Panthers thin at linebacker.
Things got worse Monday morning when Na'il Diggs, who Beason was
expected to replace at outside linebacker, was carted off the field
with an apparent right hamstring injury.

"I don't want the negative media attention. I don't want to be
the focal point," Beason, the 25th pick in the draft, told the AP
in his first interview since starting his holdout. "Already having
the pressure of being the first-round pick, not having the luxury
of being out there, it's hurting myself."

Nine years ago, the Panthers took a similar stand. Hurney was in
his first year with the Panthers as the team's salary cap specialist in
1998 when Jason Peter held out in a dispute over so-called
"voidable years," which allow players to cancel what's left of
their contract if they reach defined performance incentives. After
a 44-day absence, Peter eventually agreed to a contract without
such a clause.

Hurney is apparently willing to take similar measures to set a
precedent with Beason.

"They hope if they do this, they might be the only team that
would never have to do option bonuses going down the road,"
Huyghue said.

The second-year option bonus has come to replace the traditional
signing bonus in the NFL, since it's a more salary-cap friendly way
to pay rookies.

Huyghue said the Panthers have instead offered a bonus in the
third year, but that would be at the club's discretion and not
guaranteed unless Beason meets certain performance incentives.
Without a second-year option bonus, Huyghue said Beason's
second-year salary would be the smallest of any first-round pick in
the league.

Huyghue said the Panthers have insisted their stance against the
option bonus is not a sign they fear Beason won't honor his
contract. Beason doesn't have the kind of baggage that suggests he
could become a problem for the Panthers, who have stressed
character after a series of player arrests in the late 1990s.

"They're saying, 'Jon, this isn't about you,' " Huyghue said.
"Well, it is about him because you expect him to sign this deal."

Huyghue said the option bonus is the only stumbling block. The
teams are close on the total amount of guaranteed money, believed
to be about $6.5 million.

But the agent acknowledges the Panthers hold the power and if
they don't budge, Beason will either have to accept a deal without
an option bonus or sit out the season.

Meanwhile, Beason -- a linebacker from Miami -- continues to work
out on his own in Jacksonville, Fla.

"I just want to come in and compete. I just want a fair deal,"
Beason said. "Obviously, the team can structure a deal however
they want to, but I just want to sign a deal that's the same [by] comparison to what everyone else got."