Gannon looking for major pay raise

Rich Gannon has been one of the NFL's top quarterbacks the past three seasons and apparently wants to start getting paid like one, but he has picked the wrong time to pick his fight. The Raiders are strapped against the salary cap and will have to do some maneuvering just to clear the way to sign their rookie class of draft picks.

Gannon's current deal will net him $2 million this year then jumps to $5 million in each of the next three seasons. Because the Raiders have the option to void the final three years of the deal and because he will celebrate his 37th birthday in December, Gannon isn't likely to be around long enough to collect on the entire deal.

That's why he's been seeking to restructure his contract. But his asking price seems to be out of the Raiders' range. According to a source close to the negotiations, Gannon is seeking a deal that would pay him close to $10 million annually, which would make him the highest paid quarterback in the NFL.

Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts, at $6.3 million annually, is the league's highest-paid quarterback right now. Mark Brunell of Jacksonville also has a deal that pays him more than $6.2 million in base salary.

In fact, there are 10 quarterbacks in all who are scheduled to make more in base salary than Gannon is due in 2002. That includes Arizona's Jake Plummer ($5.7 million), Pittsburgh's Kordell Stewart ($5.3 million), Buffalo's Drew Bledsoe ($4.9 million), Cleveland's Tim Couch ($4.4 million), San Diego's Doug Flutie ($4.3 million), New York Giants Kerry Collins ($4.0 million), Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb ($3.7 million) and Tampa Bay's Brad Johnson ($3.5 million).

With the exception of Bledsoe, who opened 2001 as New England's starter but wound up as a back-up for the Super Bowl champions before eventually being traded to the Bills, only three of those quarterbacks mentioned above led their teams to the playoffs last season.

Gannon has led the Raiders to the playoffs each of the last two years while also being named Pro Bowl MVP twice. Only the second quarterback in team history to pass for more than 3,000 yards in three successive seasons, Gannon wants to cash in while he can.

But timing could be against him. Oakland currently only has about $1.6 million worth of space available under the cap for this season. It doesn't help matters that the Raiders will have to eat Regan Upshaw's $1.45 million in salary cap space. Upshaw tore the ACL in his right knee during a recent mini-camp, and though there is hope he might be able to rejoin the team possibly as early as October, it's more likely the defensive end will have to sit out the entire 2002 season.

So the gap between Gannon and the Raiders appears to be as wide as ever. Gannon did make an appearance at the mandatory mini-camp earlier this month but he was wasted no time in getting out of town once the camp was over. Unless something gives, and soon, the worst could be yet to come. This, with training camp is less than six weeks away.





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