Will Jones Deal Spur Pace To Sign?

No official word has yet come concerning Rams tackle Orlando Pace's choice to replace Carl Poston as his agent, and now the Rams franchise player the last three years, counting 2005 as of this week's decision by the Rams to again tag their Pro-Bowl tackle, stands to gain big time by his procrastination.

Pace's holdout pattern has matched that of the Seahawks Walter Jones, who would have made it four straight tagged years in 2005 were it not for him agreeing to a seven year, $50 million dollar deal early this week. Jones plays the same position as Pace, has been a similar success, and like Pace was selected at the very top of the 1997 draft after a stellar college career with a national powerhouse program.

You couldn't get any NFL scout to say there is much difference in the two stud offensive tackles, either for their present play, or future potential to stay at the top of their peer group. Both men are similarly solid people off the field as well, with only the business side of the game feeding any negative press, and are liked and respected by their teammates. The way they have been accepted by their buddies despite skipping the off-season programs and training camp is proof positive of that.

One cannot imagine that Jones would take less than what he is worth after three years holding out as the franchise player, and this year, with three top stars set to become unrestricted free agents on March 2nd, Jones had far more leverage to hold his team hostage or be allowed to hit the open market. The Seahawks organization was shook by the events of 2004, predicted to be a breakout season for Seattle, so it can be accepted that the Jones deal should be the gold standard for what the top left tackles are paid.

The Jones deal, which includes a $15 million signing bonus, and up to another $5 million in later bonuses, was negotiated by an agent, who will get a couple percent of what his client is paid, but Pace probably could go to Rams President Jay Zygmunt tomorrow and agree to an exact copy of Jones deal, and save himself a much as $1 million dollars in agent fees over the life of such a deal. If Pace does hire anyone but a guy named Poston, the first thing they will do is look at what Jones just got. Sure, they may restructure some things just to justify getting paid, but in the end, the numbers would no doubt be almost the same.

Hopefully, Pace who didn't pay Poston a dime of his franchise number paycheck in 2004, will see this opportunity to make up for a few extra million he may think he deserves by representing himself, and use whatever Jones agent hammered out for free. Zygmunt offered Pace $16 million up front before, and was even supposedly prepared to go to $19 million last March. Pace could get a million dollars more up front than Jones, and still only equal what the Rams paid their other core players when they came up for new deals.

I can't imagine anyone not seeing how unparalleled the comparison between Jones and Pace is in almost every way, and surely Pace knows that getting his cap number to a manageable level is the Rams top priority before March. Pace could get it done painlessly now, without any whispers of him taking a cut-rate deal from the players union.

If "Big O" doesn't step up now, or as soon as he unpacks his suitcase from his trip to Hawaii for the Pro-Bowl, then it's a signal that maybe he just doesn't like training camp or pre-season. My guess is that the Jones deal will make for a quick deal just like his holdout was one reason Poston didn't want to sign his guy first and see the other guy squeeze a better deal out of wealthy Seahawks owner Paul Allen.

All that should remain is Orlando Pace deciding to risk again putting his future and his team in the hands of an agent, or take the easy money and get the Rams 2005 season off to a start with less distraction than the last two years. Hopefully if Pace does name an agent, it will be Roosevelt Barnes, who just happens to represent Walter Jones. Barnes wouldn't need long to put together a deal, just long enough to fax a copy of Jones' contract to the Rams.

LA Rams Report Top Stories