|Thursday, March 30|
By Mark Cannizzaro
Special to ESPN.com
The Keyshawn Johnson contract rift with the Jets has reached a state of
calamity, contradiction and hypocrisy.
What began with some public posturing on both sides -- including Johnson and
his agent floating word that Johnson will hold out of training camp unless
his contract is renegotiated and the Jets listening to some teams make trade
offers for Johnson's services -- has evolved into a potentially ugly,
acrimonious situation that won't soon go away.
The first thing that needs to be understood is this: Johnson, the Jets' star
wide receiver, has two years remaining on his contract -- a six-year, $15
million deal with a $6.5 million signing bonus. That contact, it should be
noted, was given to Johnson before he caught a pass or ran a route.
The next thing that's important is this: Four years into his contract,
Johnson is clearly underpaid compared to his contemporaries. He's scheduled
to make $1.74 million in base salary this season and $1.9 in 2001. Add to
that about $1 million in incentives and Johnson is still underpaid.
The Jets, however, as a rule have not redone any contracts with more than a
year remaining. They, too, are severely salary cap challenged. Jets coach Al
Groh contended that, even if the Jets wanted to renegotiate Johnson's
contract, it would wreck the team, because he'd have to cut a number of
players to fit Johnson's new deal under the cap. One player, as an example,
who could be a casualty if Johnson got a new deal, might be Chris Hayes, one
of Johnson's best friends.
This is an obvious sticky situation based on the basic premise.
The problem that's arisen is a ridiculous stance taken by Johnson and his
agent, Jerome Stanley, who have become angered by the Jets being so public
about the situation. Groh came out last week saying that Johnson is not on
the trading block and the team will not renegotiate.
Then, this week at the NFL's annual meetings in Florida, new Jets owner
Woody Johnson said contracts should be honored, referring to Johnson's
That, too, incensed Johnson.
And finally, speaking to reporters at the meetings this week, Groh was asked
how Johnson responded to the Jets' stance during a phone call between the
player and the coach. Groh made a harmless analogy that Johnson was like a child
being turned down by his parents for a raise in allowance.
Stanley and Johnson reacted to Groh's words as if their manhood were being
challenged. Ridiculous. They were merely seeking something to be angered
This is a classic waste-of-energy disagreement in that it's almost gone
beyond the original reason for the discord.
"To be a party to this young man and his family and having to pick up a
newspaper and read a comment about somebody's child asking for an allowance
increase and getting told 'no,' that is outrageous," Stanley said. "This is
not a little boy. This is a man with a family, and he doesn't want people
making those statements. He doesn't want to be talked down to."
What's outrageous is that Stanley and Johnson could become so angered over a
There's no question nerves are now beyond frayed in the Johnson camp, where Johnson on Tuesday came undone publicly after all-but swearing
he wouldn't talk about his contract or dealings with the Jets.
After weeks and weeks of coyly avoiding reporters and playing it cool by not
commenting on his desire for a new contract with the Jets, Johnson lost his cool.
Johnson lashed out at the Jets for the first time, publicly
announcing his stance and anger with the organization for refusing to
renegotiate his contract.
|Al Groh said Keyshawn Johnson is acting like a child being
turned down for a raise in allowance.|
Johnson, saying he felt "disrespected," went as far as to say that he's
close to not wanting to play for the Jets ever again -- regardless of whether
they give him a new contract or not.
"I guess you can say I'm dangerously close (to not wanting to play for the
Jets) ... and once I get there, there will be no turning back," Johnson
said. "There's a level of no matter what they discuss with me, I may not want
to continue with the Jets. I'm almost there, but I'm not quite there yet.
"No matter how much money it's going to be, I'm almost at that point,
where I can just say, 'I won't play for the Jets anymore.' "
Asked specifically about seeing his name on the trading block, Johnson said,
"I'm very disappointed and feel very disrespected."
"It's not even about the finances right now," Johnson said. "It's about the
respect aspect of it. Deal with me like a human being, like a 27-year old man
with two kids who serves his community in New York, as well as L.A. I've been
giving respect for four years. Now I expect you to deal with me with
Johnson, who's said through his agent that he doesn't believe fans want to
hear him talk about his contract, broke his word when his temper flared.
"I won't take part in the offseason program until certain things I've
discussed in privacy with the Jets are discussed," Johnson said. "As far
as training camp goes, I haven't gotten that far down the line yet."
This looks like it's going to be a long, acrimonious process unless cooler
heads prevail. Johnson, who is already holding out from the Jets' offseason
strength and conditioning program, is expected to hold out from minicamps and
And from there, who knows?
Johnson should gather himself, realize he's got two years remaining on his
contract and that, if he takes the high road for a year, he'll make his big
contract next year in a renegotiation. He's forged his career here as a team
leader, one of the hardest workers on the team and a popular figure in the
A long training camp holdout that hurts the team will do nothing but tarnish
everything Johnson has built to date.
Dolphins face defensive dilemma
guess you can say I'm dangerously close (to not
wanting to play for the Jets) ... and once I get
there, there will be no turning back. There's a
level of no matter what they discuss with me, I
may not want to continue with the Jets. I'm
almost there, but I'm not quite there yet.
||— Keyshawn Johnson
The Dolphins are on the verge of finding themselves in defensive trouble.
Miami defensive tackle Tim Bowens said he intends to exercise an option in
his contract that will make him an unrestricted free agent after the 2000
season, meaning the team could lose every starting defensive lineman to free
agency before 2001.
Agent Drew Rosenhaus confirmed to the Miami Herald late Tuesday that Bowens
will use the option in his contract rather than take the $6.5 million he is
scheduled to earn in salary and bonuses in 2001 with another $8 million due
Bowens, who signed a five-year, $25 million deal before the 1998 season,
could join starting defensive tackle Daryl Gardener and starting
defensive ends Jason Taylor and Rich Owens as unrestricted free agents.
Though the Dolphins will likely try to re-sign Bowens and the
rest of the starting defensive linemen to extensions, it's uncertain the
team could keep its entire group of players scheduled to be free agents
after next season, because they must re-sign others.
The Dolphins will try to re-sign or extend current contracts for cornerback
Sam Madison, offensive tackle Richmond Webb, Taylor, offensive tackle Brent
Smith, Owens, Gardener, Bowens and kicker Olindo Mare.
Dillon makes demands known to Bengals
Speaking of agent-speak, the agent for disgruntled Bengals running back
Corey Dillon told the Bengals this week his client won't negotiate with
Cincinnati until after the NFL draft, won't attend mini-camp and might sit
out the first 10 games of the season if they don't accommodate his wish and
send him to another team.
The agent, Marvin Demoff, said Dillon is demanding to be signed
to an offer sheet by another team before at April 10 deadline.
The Bengals have tendered Dillon a one-year deal for $1.37 million, which
means a team would have to give up a first- and third-round pick if the
Bengals chose not to match their offer.
Much like receiver Joey Galloway did in Seattle last season, if Dillon holds
out until the last six games of the season, he still would gain a full season
under the labor agreement, making him a fourth-year unrestricted free agent
in 2001. Or, he could report following the trading deadline in Week 6.
Typical mess in Cincinnati.
Coaches poll: Colts team to beat in East
In a poll of the AFC East coaches, conducted by the Boston Globe, the
Indianapolis Colts were the overwhelming favorite to win the division.
Bill Belichick of the Patriots, Dave Wannstedt of the Dolphins, Al Groh of
the Jets, and Phillips made Colts the team to beat.
Indianapolis coach Jim Mora, however, said Buffalo was the team he thought
"At the end of the regular season, when we played them in Buffalo, I thought
they were the best team in the AFC," Mora said. "But I didn't realize how
good Tennessee was until they beat us in the playoffs. Buffalo, to me, will
be as strong as any team in the AFC."
Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post writes an AFC notebook for ESPN.com that appears every other Thursday.