Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Broncos Tebow: Holdout Debate?

Leave it to the Denver Post's Mark Kiszla to present Tim Tebow's contract situation with the Broncos as "can't-win," with a classic sports-media false choice:

According to Kiszla, either Tebow signs early -- which Kiszla tenuously qualifies as being disloyal to his fellow rookies -- or he holds out and earns the frustration of fans, who hate holdouts.

Kiszla nets out that Tebow should hold out, as a sign of solidarity with other rookies. The columnist's logic? Who needs a couple days of training camp? And Tebow really should want to make sure that the other rookies (and, by extension, veterans in the union) like and respect him, which Kiszla claims would come from holding out for as much money as possible.

Seriously? His argument falls apart under even a little scrutiny:

Did Kiszla see the reaction to Dez Bryant signing first among 1st-round picks? He was celebrated by fans, media and vets (except Roy Williams!) - and this was a guy whose rep was torched last fall as an exiled collegian. Not a peep about other rookies being bitter that Bryant signed early.

An even more important point: Most NFL players -- and certainly most fans -- resent the NFL rookie pay scale. The more money an untested rookie gets, the less money there is for the vets. And there are a LOT more vets to please than rookies.

(Of all of the issues in play in the new CBA negotiations, a revised and curtailed rookie pay scale is among the least contentious for the players' union. It is squarely in what negotiators call the "ZOPA" -- the Zone of Potential Agreement.)

So the vets aren't going to resent Tebow for signing early -- the net result is that they will appreciate his commitment, both to putting the team first and to not taking up the maximum room within the team's salary cap.

And all the vets must realize already that the hysteria around Tebow is only going to create more opportunities for all of them. (Just ask the Pats' offensive line if they enjoyed their Visa endorsement money from the Tom Brady halo effect.)

As for engendering enmity from fellow NFL rookies? Is Kiszla really suggesting that Tebow -- even if he wanted to sign -- fake it by holding out a few days, so he doesn't tick off a couple of his other rookies around the league? (Um, any evidence that anyone besides the rookies' agents want to hold out? Most rookies just want to play.)

Who cares? Sure: Ndamukong Suh is totally going to ease up on trying to sack Tebow because Tebow held out a few days in 2010.

It is entirely in line with Tebow's mentality (and "brand") not to hold out and to be in camp on time. The surprise and disappointment would be if he did hold out. And even if he does, his brand won't erode at all for a few days' holdout.

But in trying to gin up some drama, Kiszla presents some shaky reasoning in suggesting Tebow manufacture a smidgen of a holdout. Kiszla is trying to appeal to the populist, pro-labor side of you -- solidarity with the union! -- but it just doesn't make any sense. The whole argument felt forced, like a set-up to allow for a Tebow critique no matter what happens in the next 24 hours.

Tebow should sign before camp and not hold out. Even if he does hold out for a day or two, it really won't matter in the grand scheme of Tebow's popularity. (Although you can guarantee that there will be a mini-hysteria from the media -- and that Kiszla will use that for more column-fodder.)

But if I had to predict, I still think Tebow will -- and should -- sign with the Broncos in time for camp's start tomorrow.