Big Week for Chiefs and Priest Holmes

Carl Peterson has always made the difficult decisions for the Chiefs since he saved the franchise back in the late 80's. Now he's faced with one of the biggest challenges of his career in Kansas City. To extend or not to extend the contract of Priest Holmes.

As the Chiefs prepare to face the St. Louis Rams on Thursday night, in what will be their last exhibition game, Carl Peterson and the agent for Priest Holmes will try and hammer out a contract extension.

Or will they?

Before training camp, Holmes went on a local radio sports talk show 810WHB and he professed that he was healthy and would be ready for the season opener on September 7th against the San Diego Chargers.

But only if the Chiefs ‘Show him the money.'

The Chiefs have publicly stated that Holmes had to prove himself in the exhibition games before they would entertain any talk of an extension after the injury that he suffered in Denver last year.

Holmes has been a workout warrior in camp trying to get into game shape. His normal off-season activity was reduced because he was recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his injured hip.

Holmes went through training camp in River Falls and was unscathed. He played sparingly in exhibition games against the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers. He had his best performance the following week against the Minnesota Vikings.

On Saturday he only played one series against the Seattle Seahawks as his back-up Larry Johnson stole the thunder at running back as he ran for 77 yards, caught passes and returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

Will that performance affect the negotiations?

It might or it might not.

The Chiefs have a reputation of stalling contract negotiations. Sometimes it gets real ugly as players, agents and management air out some dirty laundry to the local press. However, sometimes things are done well and the Chiefs did sign all their draft picks prior to the start of training camp.

That marked a change in their recent contract philosophies. But the Holmes contract situation is both hard to read and mightily unpredictable.

Holmes has made it very clear he won't play against the Chargers unless he has a contract extension. He's seeking a contract extension that would add two or three years onto his current contract that expires in 2005. He's looking for a signing bonus somewhere between $10-12 million.

The big question is if the Chiefs are going to give it to him this week or insist he play a couple of regular season games to justify the large signing bonus and the implication that it will have on the salary cap in future years.

The other point is the fact that Holmes has said to other players that he only wants to play another four years. If that were the case, then the Chiefs could take a large salary cap hit of $5 million or more if Holmes were to retire or get injured in the next two years. The bonus would be paid out over the length of the extension but if Holmes does not honor the extension for any reason, the Chiefs could have some serious problems.

However, with the new TV deal set to expire at the end of the 2004-2005 seasons, it's likely that the Salary cap will probably increase enough to absorb the Holmes contract extension but the Chiefs will also have other needs to fill for some of their aging players especially on their offensive line.

Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt has already indicated he thought the contract extension with Holmes would get done. He has the utmost confidence in Carl Peterson who has made him a ton of money by rebuilding a franchise that was in the decline in the 70's and 80's.

However, Hunt in the most recent off-season pledged well over $100 million with the free agent signings of Shawn Barber, Dexter McCleon, Vonnie Holliday and new contracts for Trent Green, Dante Hall, Mike Maslowski, Eddie Kennison,Gary Stills, Morten Andersen and first round draft pick Larry Johnson.

The Chiefs had a lengthy contract battle with Tony Gonzalez a year ago. But cooler heads prevailed and Gonzalez received a huge contract with a $10 million signing bonus.

So the Chiefs have spent the money, But they're going to have to continue to spend even more money in order to pay Holmes the money he wants or else face public criticism and possibly ruin team chemistry in what could be a magical season in Kansas City.

But to some, Holmes appears greedy and overly friendly with the media for obvious reasons. Some local TV stations have indicated that some players resent the fact that Holmes has gone on national TV with ABC and ESPN pleading his case for more money.

The fact is that everyone knew his case and if players are upset, for the most part they've kept it to themselves. There is a rule of thumb in the NFL that what is said in the locker room stays in the locker room but eventually things leak out.

But it's normal to assume that players have some resentment and the Chiefs have to straddle a fine line of not giving into a player who is demanding a new contract when he already has one.

Now both the Chiefs and Holmes are indicating that this is an extension, which is the new term in the NFL for contract squabble.

It boils down to the fact that Holmes realizes this is his last chance to get paid big bucks. The Chiefs understand that when Holmes is healthy, that he provides them with the kind of leadership and production on the field that might get them to a Super Bowl in the next two seasons.

They are also fearful that any hit to Holmes could be his last of his career. But that's the case for Green, Gonzalez, Sims or anyone else on the roster.

However, Holmes is in a different situation. Most running backs have productive careers for four or five years. Holmes has had two serious injuries. One to his knee and the hip last season.

But Holmes has shown just enough that he shows no ill effects of the injury that shut down his 2002 season. But he's not shown that he's anywhere near the same player he was before the injury. He has has not shown anything that resembles what Larry Johnson showed on Saturday night.

Holmes is not expected to play very much against the Rams on Thursday night; even though that's the game he's publicly stated he intends to go all out.

Why hasn't he gone all out yet?

The Chiefs will have other ideas agains the Rams. The starters are only expected to play the first quarter and the Chiefs will want to get Larry Johnson some additional work with the first offensive line and unit.

No matter if Holmes signs or not, they will need a healthy, confident and productive Johnson.

Because Holmes has shown very little that he's anywhere near the running back that was virtually unstoppable the last two seasons. Johnson will be counted on this year despite the recent reservations from Dick Vermeil after his breakout performance against the Seahawks.

In the next week, the Chiefs have to decide if they are going to give Holmes the money and Holmes has to decide if he's really going to sit out the season opener; if he does not get the contract extension that he's seeking.

Only time will tell. But whoever flinches first might end up winning or losing depending on whose side you're on.

My bet is the Chiefs flinch first and give Holmes the money he wants. The deciding blow could be that of Dick Vermeil who has already told people in the media that Holmes deserves a better contract.

I doubt those comments would have come out of his mouth if he was not confident that it will get done before the season opener against division rival San Diego.

For Holmes, he has to be careful how he is perceived. He's always been humble to the media. But now he has an edge that nobody has seen until he started using the media to plead his case. Some feel he's being greedy while others say it's just business in the NFL.

The Chiefs organization, especially Carl Peterson, could care less what anyone thinks or says about the contract situation. Peterson to his credit has already done his job by rebuilding a winner with its first legitimate Super Bowl chance since he came to Kansas City.

The Chiefs have everything in place to get to the Super Bowl this year. They have no excuses and no one will be satisfied unless they make it and win it all this year. That's the mindset of the coaches and the players. It's expecially the mind set of both Carl Peterson and Priest Holmes.

With that in mind, if the deal makes sense and does not kill the salary cap, then Peterson will give Holmes the money he wants.

If Holmes has to structure the contract that allows the Chiefs some protection for cap purposes down the road that inculdes a smaller signing bonus than he's expecting; then Holmes will have to decide how much of ‘Team Priest' is really about the team or the individual.

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