The 49ers aren't in a contract-related "crisis" right now, but when you have so few disputes on your team, it seems like the few you do have are much bigger than they actually are. The thought of Manny Lawson coming up to free agency after the 2010 season is something that generally isn't a big deal, but it has garnered a fair amount of discussion. There was a one-day period where many fans were freaking out at the possibility of Shawntae Spencer being absent for late May's voluntary OTAs, but it ended up just being speculation.
Things like this are inconveniences, certainly we'd love Lawson to be resigned, and we want Spencer, the team's best CB last season, to be happy and a team player. But I want everyone to take note that there are teams in the league who are worse off than we are.
I mean, our biggest issue right now is Dashon Goldson, and the fact that he probably/maybe/possibly/has said/is rumored/my friend told me that he/who knows wants a contract that will pay him top five safety money. I've noticed the prevailing theory on Niners Nation is that none of these players should be asking for that much money until we start winning.
Another time I noticed this was when talks of Andy Lee's contract came up... and by came up, I mean I brought them up. Basically, the theory, again, was that Lee was greedy and should stick to his contract and continue being paid in the bottom half of NFL punters. The theory was that the team didn't have a winning record, so Lee shouldn't receive a "winning" contract.
I am strongly opposed to this line of thought. A player should not be punished for the level of play the people around him exude, or the ability of the coaches above him to gameplan. If a player plays well, he should get paid. But I do think there is middle ground. We have only two players who we know are unhappy with their contract situation in Lawson and Lee, and only one who is reportedly seeking bigger and better things before free agency, while not being "unhappy" with his current deal is Goldson. (Disclaimer: I do not agree with Goldson's line of thought that he deserves top safety money, he doesn't deserve it based on play, but the lack of ticks in the win column don't play into that thought.)
So that's three players at least (best?). One of whom isn't unhappy (Goldson), one of whom is unhappy but most likely won't hold out for at least another season (Lee), and one who is happy and needs to deal with it (Lawson). That's pretty good, when you consider the Cleveland Browns.
This will make the folks who live by the "don't ask for money until we start winning" theory absolutely sick to their stomach. Six players from the Cleveland Browns were absent from the team's voluntary OTA sessions and have been noted as unhappy with their contract. Well, it's down to five now, as one player (Jerome Harrison) ended up attending the OTAs, but is still unhappy with the contract situation.
Six players is more than the five wins they had last season. I want to stick to my convictions and say "well if they all played well individually, they deserve money", but.. five wins? Six unhappy players who think they need a ton of money? I just don't see it. That's crazy. Ludicrous. Even if the team wanted to make all of these people happy with big contracts, they surely couldn't afford it.
The front office wants to get it settled, but who do they give it to? All six of those players were starters last season. All six did contribute in some way. One of the players has requested a trade. One of them is a kicker. It's an absolute disaster for a team that needs to rebuild. They have to pick and choose who to pay, what to pay them and when to pay them--all at the risk of insulting one or more of the other five.
So take note, 49ers fans. We're not so bad when it comes to that front. We re-signed Patrick Willis and the team is extremely optimistic about their chances to get Vernon Davis inked. And for those of you calling for more wins first... shhhh. It will be OK. We can afford to give Lee another million, and I believe we can get Lawson inked for a relatively low price. Goldson is the only true question mark here, and he's the only one who's being unreasonable.
I guess the morale of the story is... be glad we're not the Cleveland Browns.