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Michael Crabtree Contract: The never-ending story

From that title, one would assume this saga had been going on for months and months. In reality, Michael Crabtree has missed three practices due to his contract holdout. The Bills are into their second week of on-field practices without #1 pick Aaron Maybin. A look at the contract status page shows 11 unsigned first round picks. So clearly the 49ers are not alone in this.

While I think the 49ers can certainly get by without Crabtree in the short term, it is obviously still an annoyance to not have him in camp. In the recent past, the 49ers have been fortunate enough to get all of their picks into camp on time. There is a learning curve for rookies and a holdout would seem to make that learning curve even steeper, given the reduced amount of practice time.

In looking at this holdout, 99% of us are at a disadvantage. At this point, one could argue that the only people with an idea of what is really going on are Michael Crabtree, Eugene Parker (his agent), and unnamed folks in the 49ers front office (although one would imagine that includes Scot McCloughan and Paraag Marathe). If you look at Crabtree's Rotoworld page, the closest there is to real news might be Maiocco's Facebook message about the stalemate.

This leaves us having to make numerous assumptions. Of course, one could apply the old saying "Where there's smoke there's fire." If we're hearing the same thing over and over again (basically the idea that Parker wants higher slot money since Crabtree should have gone higher), it's a lot easier to believe. Even though everything is coming second and third hand (whether it be Maiocco, or Florio at PFT), it's all pretty consistent.

The problem we're left with is this: given that the holdout has begun, blinking by either side would amount to losing face. We don't know what the 49ers have offered and it's hard to figure out the slot since the two players ahead and behind Crabtree have not signed. Darrius Heyward-Bey got $38.25 million at 7 and Orakpo got $20 million at 13 so I'm guessing the 49ers have offered something in between that.

If Eugene Parker is trying to get Crabtree top 5 money, or better than Heyward-Bey money, then the 49ers likely could have offered $37.75 million, just under DHB, and it wouldn't make a difference. Again, all assumptions. But if Parker is trying to score more, what's going to end this holdout if the 49ers don't go out of slot?

And that is what worries me. Last year, two Parker clients held out through most of the preseason. Steven Jackson held out from Rams camp for 27 days before returning August 20 and signing a long term deal August 21. Jason Peters held out from Bills camp until a day before the start of the regular season. Peters did not get an extension, but this past April was dealt to Philadelphia where he signed a contract extension.

Crabtree is not in their situation since Jackson and Peters had both established themselves in the NFL prior to holding out. Crabtree and Parker do not have the kind of leverage a star, veteran running back or offensive lineman has. Crabtree has some leverage given that he knows the 49ers are psyched to have him. But it's not much beyond that at this point.

And yet, I still see no reason this will end soon. As disappointing as that is, I have no problem focusing on the positive of a guy like Josh Morgan making big plays. If/when Crabtree gets his contract signed he'll be welcomed with open arms. In the meantime, there is plenty more to concern ourselves with.