Dolphins handle negotiations without gimmicks
The Dolphins talked to Jake Long's agent for the first time about two weeks ago and haven't talked to anyone else. Now, only five days from selection day, it is clear there will be no talks with Chris Long or Vernon Gholston or Matt Ryan or Glenn Dorsey.
Jake Long is Miami's man. And Jake Long will probably be drafted and agree to a contract with Miami, although not necessarily in that order.
So wha happen?
Why didn't the Dolphins open negotiations with another first pick candidate, if for no other reason than to use it as leverage against Jake Long? Why didn't the team try to ensure a discount for signing that first pick while at the same time hedging its bet against a holdout?
Let's count the reasons.
First, the Dolphins clearly decided Jake Long is their man. This was apparently decided as early as March when I first told you they had set their draft board. After this decision, the team apparently made the next logical decision -- rightly, I think -- to open negotiations in GOOD FAITH.
Tom Condon, who represents Jake Long, is a veteran agent who doesn't intimidate easily. He knows the game and knows how to play. And it was wise on the Dolphins part not to mess too much with what could be a good thing by explicitly imposing negotiation deadlines and threatening to go elsewhere if they didn't get their way.
By keeping this negotiation free of gimmicks, the Dolphins hoped to get, and apparently got, a clean negotiation free of unnecessary drama. Of course, they still held the card of moving on if the talks didn't move forward -- and that was the implicit deadline I told you about last week. But there has not been a written or spoken deadline by which Condon was forced to work.
Another reason the Dolphins haven't talked to other players thus far -- and likely will not barring a total collapse of these talks -- is that they really want Jake Long. He fills a need. He is likely to be a good player. He is a safe pick in that he has no questionable background. And if he falters as a left tackle, he can always play right tackle.
There is also the agent factor that worked against Miami. Although Long has been their choice for a while, it's not a blowout decision. The team likes Matt Ryan. The team likes Vernon Gholston. The team likes Chris Long.
But to play hardball with Jake Long's agent didn't serve a purpose because the Dolphins couldn't really turn and say, "We're going to open talks with Gholston and get a better deal." The reason is Condon's agency also represents Gholston. And Condon's agency also represents Matt Ryan.
Miami really had nowhere to turn other than to Chris Long and his agent Marvin Demoff if the talks with Condon became ugly. Guess what? Marvin Demoff is not the type of agent that gives discounts either. When he caught wind of the bogus Internet talk about the Dolphins passing on their pick then selecting his client fourth or fifth in order to pay less for the pick, Demoff told reporters that if Miami picked his client after pulling that prank, he would demand to be paid like the first overall pick.
So forget using Demoff as a legitimate foil against Condon.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I believe Condon is aware enough of the financial environment he's operating in with the Dolphins that he isn't going to try and steal the silverware after being invited to dinner. There is prestige in representing the first overall pick. Condon didn't want to screw that up.
For those many reasons, the negotiation with Jake Long seems pointed toward a successful conclusion by 3 p.m. Saturday. It is doubtful the Dolphins will get the huge discount everyone, including myself, predicted they would get out of this negotiation. But neither will they get fried like a plump chicken leg as the Raiders did last year in the JaMarcus Russell negotiations.
At the end of the day, the Dolphins should get their man. And their man will get a contract representative of his status as the first overall pick.