The last unsigned first-rounder is in the NFL is none other than……Jaguars DE Derrick Harvey? What in the name of Hugh Douglas is going on here?
The Jaguars went into April’s draft still smarting from the 26-for-28 passing performance that Patriots QB Tom Brady laid on the proud Jacksonville defense in the 2007 Divisional Round playoff game. Jacksonville was determined to get help for the aging defensive line by drafting defensive ends in consecutive rounds (DE Derrick Harvey at #8 overall and DE Quentin Groves at spot #52 overall).
The initial shocker of the first round was the Jaguars trading up to spot #8 to take Harvey, who was the third-highest rated DE on the board (after Chris Long and Vernon Gholston). The Jaguars gave up their 1st rounder, two 3rd rounders, and a 4th rounder for the opportunity to go get Harvey. Many experts felt that the Jaguars’ move to get Harvey was a reach.
However, the Cincinnati Bengals, drafting at spot #9 and in dire need of a defensive end once Justin Smith bolted for San Francisco, probably would have selected Harvey anyway. So the Jaguars rolled the dice and took a chance on Harvey.
Yet they still do not have their man in camp.
Last week, head coach Jack Del Rio slammed the recent offers from the Harvey camp. Harvey’s agents responded that they just want something that is “fair” in relation to the contracts that Gholston and DT Sedrick Ellis signed.
Are the rookie contracts in the NFL out of control? Absolutely. Are the Jaguars the victims here? Absolutely not.
The Jaguars had to have known what they were getting themselves into when they jumped into the top 10 of the first round. Most teams are looking to trade down to avoid paying the big contracts (and possibly grab some more lower-tier draft picks like what Baltimore did). Given the tepid success of the majority of Jacksonville’s first round picks, it was quite surprising to see the Jaguars jump at the opportunity to go after a player who was going to cost a lot of money to sign.
So almost two weeks since training camp began, the Jaguars and Harvey are at a stalemate. Harvey is losing valuable playing time, and it remains to be seen if the Jaguars will treat this situation much like Oakland did last year with QB JaMarcus Russell (Russell did not sign until the 2007 season had already begun).
Contract negotiations are always a dance of death: neither side wants to give in. Usually, after much posturing, the two sides make up, reach some kind of agreement, and put on the phony smiles for a press conference at a later date.
In Harvey’s case, the Jaguars knew they wanted a young, premier pass rusher. But why go through with the blockbuster trade if you do not intend to pay the guy his fair-market value? Before the draft even started, the Miami Dolphins signed T Jake Long to a contract that included $30 million guaranteed. It’s not like the writing wasn’t on the wall for teams selecting early in the 1st round.
Harvey is being unfairly labeled in some circles as greedy because of his holdout. However, I think this is a case of the Jaguars not following their normal sound advice of “buyer beware.” Is it possible they are having some slight buyer’s remorse and questioning their itchy trigger finger move during the draft? Whatever the reasons are for the Jaguars balking at getting Harvey into camp, the Jaguars made their bed and have to lie in it. If they want to make an example out of Harvey in relation to the out-of-control rookie contracts, so be it. But Harvey is certainly not the bad guy here.