In his latest cry to the media over his contract dispute, Walker told ESPN talk show host Jim Rome on Thursday that he should be one of the top five highest paid receivers in the NFL. He went on to say that he intends to report to training camp. Of course, he never said what he plans to do when he gets to Green Bay. So is Walker holding out, or showing up and holding out, or just whining that he wants more money?
The Packers, for all intents and purposes, have all the leverage on their side at this point. It didn't appear that way earlier this spring, but the more Walker carries on about his contract, the less respect he is gaining from fans and management. Walker would be wise to suit up, shut up and begin practicing for the 2005 season, if he intends to some day land Randy Moss-like money.
Walker's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and other NFL stars that he represents, including Philadelphia's Terrell Owens, Arizona's Anquan Boldin, Cleveland's Reuben Droughns, among others, skipped their respective post-draft minicamps. Since then, the Rosenhaus camp has lost some of its might. Boldin has told reporters that he plans to end his holdout and report to the team's June minicamp and training camp. Philadelphia owner Jeff Lurie basically told Owens to take a hike because there is no way that the Eagles will renegotiate his one-year-old deal, even if the five-time Pro Bowl player threatens to sit out the entire season.
In the past week, Walker has waffled between acting tough and holding out, and reporting to the June mini-camp and training camp. He gave fans at his charity softball game in Milwaukee last Saturday every indication that he'll be back with the team soon. He told Rome that he intends to be at training camp and possibly the June mini-camp. Time will tell, but it sure seems like his stance is softening. At the same time, he is losing respect from Packers fans and it's beginning to have a snowball effect. Good luck, Drew!
Walker has been a popular player for the Packers in the three years. He is a spokesman for a sub sandwich chain and airline in Wisconsin. He has his own "J-Walk" clothing line. He volunteers his time for charity. He's a good guy and excellent athlete. At least he came across that way over the past three years. However, the advice he is receiving from Rosenhaus is making him look nothing more than a greedy, selfish pro athlete. Many fans already have stated on the Internet, newspapers and radio in Green Bay that the Packers will do fine without him this season.
The fact is, Walker, despite his Pro Bowl numbers last year, still is listed as Green Bay's No. 3 wide receiver behind Donald Driver and Robert Ferguson. Walker has been paid more than $6 million of the five-year, $7.5 million deal he signed as a rookie in 2002. And he has only had one good season. He's cashed checks from the Packers for an average of more than $2 million a year over the last three years. He has met expectations of him set by the Packers when they drafted him in the first round in 2002, and he's been compensated. Sounds fair to me. If he continues to play well, the Packers undoubtedly will compensate him with a signing bonus that will easily make him forget all about his base salary of $515,000 this season and $650,000 in 2006, chump-change by his standards.
Walker is worried about a season- or career-threatening injury. That's a fact of life in the NFL, but the Packers have been loyal to others who were in a contract season and were injured. Tackle Mark Tauscher, in the final season of his rookie contract, received a six-year, $17 million deal from the Packers during the 2002 season, a few months after he suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the year. It included about $4 million in bonus money.
Walker will do more for himself and his career by ending his holdout ASAP. If he continues to perform like he did last season, he will regain an overwhelming support from fans for management to renegotiate his contract before the end of the season. Holding out, or worse yet, showing up for minicamp or training camp and not participating in practices, will do nothing but erode any leverage in his negotiation with the team.
Walker has made his point. He should let it rest because he is only hurting himself.
Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.