Packers, NFL need to make a statement

Mike Sherman told reporters at the conclusion of the recent Green Bay Packers' post-draft mini-camp that the team has "already moved on" without Javon Walker. That's easy for the coach to say more than four months before the first game of the season. Will the same words be ringing out of Lambeau Field in September?

Walker, along with Philadelphia's Terrell Owens, Arizona's Anquan Boldin, and Cleveland's Reuben Droughns each skipped recent mini-camps because they want a renegotiated contract. Each of the four star players, all represented by agent Drew Rosenhaus, have a minimum of two years remaining on their existing contracts. Walker is scheduled for a base salary of $515,000 this season and $650,000 in 2006.

The Packers, to their credit, could see Walker's holdout coming when he hired Rosenhaus earlier this off-season. Rosenhaus, who represented disgrunted cornerback Mike McKenzie, has made a name for himself by helping players get new and improved deals, or traded to a different team. McKenzie wanted out of Green Bay last off-season, and he eventually found himself in New Orleans in October.

Walker enjoyed a Pro Bowl season in 2004, leading the Packers with 89 catches for more than 1,300 yards. But now he feels he deserves a bigger paycheck. Compared to what other Pro Bowl receivers are getting paid, Walker deserves more money, so he has all kinds of leverage at the negotiating table. Will Rosenhaus get a new deal for him?

Perhaps an even bigger question: Will the Packers allow Rosenhaus to reach the negotiating table to work a new deal for Walker? Thus far, it appears that the Packers are indeed going to try to proceed without Walker. Green Bay drafted two receivers a few weeks ago – Texas A&M's Terrence Murphy and UCLA's Craig Bragg – as insurance and a statement that they're firm on their policy of not renegotiating a player's contract with more than a year remaining.

"You can't wait for anybody in regard to that situation," Sherman said. "You always put another guy in (his place), and you go forward. Just like if you get somebody hurt - you move on, and you go."

By not caving in to Walker's demands, the Packers can almost assure themselves of avoiding this situation again with other players. However, history has shown that Green Bay, as well as other teams, eventually will give the star player what he wants. The Packers did last year with McKenzie. Despite training camp holdouts, the Packers eventually met contract demands of Dorsey Levens and Antonio Freeman in the late 1990s. Wide receiver Keenan McCardell wanted out of Tampa Bay last year, and the Bucs eventually traded him to San Diego. Owens didn't want to go to Baltimore last off-season, so he ended up in Philadelphia.

The fact is, star players generally get their way with money or trade demands in the National Football League, and other leagues as well. Unless the Packers and other NFL teams dealing with players who are holding out for more money despite having two or more seasons left on their contract actually do carry on without their malcontents, players will continue to get their way.

The Packers have the money under the salary cap to renegotiate with Walker. Rosenhaus knows this. Green Bay could renegotiate with Walker, but like center Mike Flanagan said recently, "there's gonna be 10 guys knocking on the (management's) door and saying, 'I'm holding out, too, and I'll tell you I'm going to be one of them."

The Packers, Browns, Eagles and Cardinals need to stick to their principles and not cave into a star player's demand when he is still under contract. Will they? The league and fans can only hope so.

Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of Packer Report and E-mail him at

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