Grant, Packers may be headed to impasse

Grant's situation is unusual in that he deserves a big contract, but is in no position, based on his free agency status, to get one, writes Packer Report's Matt Tevsh.

With Packers training camp just over a month away, the thinking here is that Ryan Grant will hold out, at least for a while, when practices begin on July 28.

Technically, the promising young running back is not even on the Packers' roster because he has yet to sign the $370,000 minimum tender the Packers offered him this offseason as an exclusive-rights free agent. Because he has less than three accrued seasons in the league, he can't negotiate with any other teams.

Though Grant participated in the Packers' offseason workout program and was present for OTA sessions and the mini-camp last week, he did not practice. Instead, he answered questions regarding his contract situation. He and his agent, Alan Herman, are seeking a long-term deal and have reportedly been talking about it with the Packers.

"We're moving forward. Everything's positive as of right now," said Grant on June 19.

The Packers and general manager Ted Thompson have yet to budge and may not any time soon. That has both sides at an apparent stalemate.

Grant's situation is unusual in that he deserves a big contract, but is in no position, based on his free agency status, to get one. Thus, the Packers have the upper hand – and they have every reason to wait until sometime during the 2008 season to award Grant a more lucrative deal.

Grant's only choice at this point, really, is to sit out or play for the minimum tender. He has made it clear he does not want to do either.

By all indications, Grant does not seem like the type of guy who would hold out or even want to miss any regular-season action. He has come too far, put in too much effort, and missed too much valuable time as a pro to let this opportunity slip by.

Last season, he stepped forward, rushing for 1,159 yards and 11 touchdowns over the last 12 games (including the postseason). It was really his first full season in the NFL having spent two previous years with the Giants on the practice squad and reserve/non-football injury list.

Still, he could test how much the Packers value him by sitting out some of training camp.

After last season's running back mess in training camp and into the first half of the season, the Packers should value Grant as much as anyone on their roster. They need him to make their running game a force. Though they have a host of young, improving running backs (second-year players Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn) and steady veterans (Vernand Morency and Noah Herron), no one can match Grant's combination of power and speed. The Packers know that, but also know they have money and time on their side to get a deal done with Grant later.

Thompson has shown an uncanny knack since coming to Green Bay of awarding players big contracts at the right time. That has led to annual cap flexibility and retention a strong team nucleus while keeping individual players happy. Just as a reminder, the Packers were 13-3 last year, advancing to the NFC championship game in just the third year of Thompson's tenure.

Thompson's history would suggest he is not about to jump the gun this time. Grant is worthy of a blockbuster deal, yes, but the timing is everything here. Should Grant have another healthy and productive run, through the first half of the upcoming season, the timing will be more appropriate. Waiting is the only fiscally responsible choice the Packers have unless Thompson and Russ Ball (the Packers' vice president of football administration/player finance) have other creative methods in mind.

Grant, 25, is a hot commodity on the verge of becoming one of the best running backs in the league. His time to capitalize is now because the perception of a running back's shelf life ends at 30.

Both Grant and the Packers have strong cases. More than anything, though, the situation is complicated, which leads this scribe to believe some type of holdout is imminent.

Matt Tevsh is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com.


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