Niners weren't about to cave to Camp Crabtree

The 49ers appear slowly on their way back to becoming a NFL power again, but perhaps their best display of strength as an organization over the past few months was the way they refused to get pushed around by the people running Michael Crabtree. The Niners showed everybody they indeed have backbone, and while it helps them in the present to have Crabtree, it will help them even more in the future.

The 49ers weren't about to cave in to the preposterous demands of the Crabtree camp, whose moves were obviously being orchestrated by Crabtree's hard-line agent Eugene Parker, who basically gambled and lost while holding the fortunes of a talented young client in his hands.

After a contract impasse that stretched ridiculously into the fifth week of the season, Crabtree signed with San Francisco for basically the same kind of money the team was offering back in July, before the wide receiver from Texas Tech decided to stage the longest contract stalemate by a rookie in the 64-year history of the 49ers franchise.

In the time it took for Crabtree to finally become the last of the 256 players selected in the 2009 draft to sign with his team, all sorts of veiled threats came swirling towards the Niners from sources claiming to be speaking for Crabtree. It must be noted that none of those threats actually came from Crabtree's mouth.

He was willing to sit out the season and re-enter the draft in 2010, Crabtree's cousin/advisor told ESPN. There were teams out there willing to pay Crabtree twice what the 49ers were offering, claimed Crabtree confidant Deion Sanders on the NFL Network.

Another rumor suggested Crabtree was not enamored with the idea of playing for a San Francisco offense that's not exactly friendly to the pass. Somebody also got the word out there that Crabtree already had stocked away enough money from endorsements alone to live comfortably until a 2010 payday with another team.

The 49ers needed Crabtree more than Crabtree needed the 49ers was the general notion being tossed to the wind. And the Crabtree camp apparently took that as leverage.

But the leverage all along belonged to the 49ers. They never budged from their realistic, good-faith offer. And as much as they wanted Crabtree, they weren't going to be foolhardy in getting him with an offer that would be detrimental to the team and its process of dealing with draft picks in the future.

"I was never going to panic," 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan said. "We didn't want it to come to this, but we were never going to panic. The worst-case scenario is we go all the way through it. He goes back in next year's draft. We get no compensation for it. I was willing to accept that and not let it affect this team – not just this year, but for the future as well."

Parker, who has a history of holding out first-round draft picks to squeeze more money out of the teams that selected them, tried to take advantage of a San Francisco team that has been down on its luck much of the past decade and obviously needs the boost of a potential superstar talent.

But the guy misjudged the fortitude and resolve of McCloughan and team president Jed York to not jumble the team's structure and direction by giving Crabtree a slot-busting deal that could cause ripple effects throughout the NFL.

In the end, Crabtree got money worthy of the No. 10 overall pick in the draft. No more and no less.

Which is the way it should be, of course. And which is why Parker was nowhere to be seen at 49ers headquarters on the day a reluctant Crabtree was forced to speak for himself and answer questions regarding what staying away from the team for 71 days had accomplished for him.

It appears that Crabtree, after admitting he had watched every game of the 49ers' strong 3-1 start, finally went to his agent and said enough is enough.

It was Crabtree and Parker who came to the San Francisco Bay Area unannounced and uninvited the day after the 49ers' 35-0 rout of the St. Louis Rams. It was Parker who came to the 49ers to set up a meeting after declining to seriously negotiate the previous two months.

And it was Parker that finally had to swallow his pretentiousness and realize the 49ers weren't going to switch their market-value proposal to a deal that better favored the overvalued demands of Camp Crabtree.

When asked about the logic of allowing this farce to extend so long into the season, McCloughan was straightforward and practical – dynamics of which Crabtree would have benefited by seeing more of from the people handling his negotiations.

"It's hard for me to really know," McCloughan responded. "I would love to find out when it is said and done. We came out of the gate (several months ago) and put a good offer on the table. They even said that, for the 10th pick, that is a solid offer out of the gate.

"It is a funny part of the business, it is a part I don't like. First of all, you are paying an unproven commodity when you have players out there who are producing that you have not taken care of yet. Also, again, it is a part of the business. You can't make it personal and you can't panic and make you be nervous about, ‘Listen, we have to get it done. We have to have him here.' Because the one thing that coach has stated, which I agree with, is it's not about one individual, it's about 53.

"But, also, he is the 10th pick in the draft and there is a reason why we took him there because we think he is a highly-talented football player who has a great upside for us. You would like to have him on the field from Day 1 of training camp because it gives him the opportunity to have a productive rookie year. It was not happening that way. Eventually, I am sure it will come out. I am curious to find out because it goes against the norm."

If the 49ers had caved to Parker's demands and given Crabtree more money than even the player drafted one slot ahead of him, it would have set a horrible precedent for the franchise and led to a perception around the league that the organization is weak and does not know how to handle itself in important matters of this such.

Instead, the Niners finally landed an exceptional young talent for the next six years – on their terms.

And now, money-grubbing agents such as Parker will think twice before they mess with the 49ers.

"For me to say that I would have been OK with Michael Crabtree not to be on this team ever after taking him at the 10th pick is a little bit ludicrous," McCloughan said. "But there's some truth to it.

"We needed to, not just prove a point, but what you do now is what happens in the future as well. If you start setting precedents you don't want to follow in the future, you really handcuff your organization. We're not going to make this about the individual. We're going to make this about the team. I think that right now, with the way we're built and the way we're going forward, that is going to make us more successful."

Amen.



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