All we need are the Ringling Brothers.
Osi Umenyiora’s protracted contract dispute with the Giants took an odd turn Wednesday as the defensive end flew to Atlanta to seek a second opinion on his "knee issue." What that issue is remains a mystery.
Just days ago, Osi reported to Giants camp and refused to take the field—opting instead for the exercise bike. His sitting out had nothing to do with injury—something the Giants made sure to clarify to the media.
To quickly recap: Osi is upset with his contract and more so with Giants GM Jerry Reese, insisting Reese promised him a new contract or a trade if the defensive end performed like one of the top DEs in the sport—which he undoubtedly did last season. What was said between the two also remains a mystery, as even Osi’s agent cannot confirm what was said behind closed doors since he wasn’t present.
Osi is scheduled to make $3.1 million this year in the midst of a five-year, $41 million extension he signed that carries him through the 2012 season. The deal at the time was the most guaranteed money ever for a player with only three years service ($15 million) and he received $21 million in the first three years, one of which he spent entirely on injured reserve.
Fast-forward to this abbreviated offseason, and he wants a new deal. His agent, Tony Agnone, was allowed to seek a trade. No teams were willing to part with the first-round pick the Giants sought along with a mammoth new contract. Once that window closed, the two parties exchanged ideas on how to amplify Osi’s 2011 salary.
The Giants were willing to offer incentives (which were, to be honest, difficult to attain) while Osi countered with a restructuring that would cancel out his 2012 salary and move it into the 2011 payout as a bonus, making him a free agent next year. The Giants are obviously balking at that proposal, seeing as how they would have no control over his movement.
Considering what’s at stake for Osi personally, the revelation that he has a possibly serious knee condition borders on the absurd, even if it’s true. Giants doctors have already looked at the knee and seem rather confident that with rest and treatment they can avoid aggravating whatever injury exists.
Simply getting on a plane for Atlanta has caused serious damage to Osi’s trade value, let alone a new contract. If he thinks he’s punishing the Giants for failing to rework his deal, he’s sorely mistaken. The only person he’s hurting is himself.
Now of course, there’s a possibility that he does have significant damage in the knee that requires surgery. I’ll eat crow when and if it’s disclosed. But that seems doubtful considering his erratic behavior.
And if this is just a ruse to stay away from training camp (which wouldn’t be shocking considering his agent also represented Michael Strahan, who pulled the old "I might retire" shtick to avoid two-a-days), how is this maximizing his value?
Yes—if he hits the open market he’ll get paid. But disclosing and exaggerating a knee injury changes all of that. And this is now a pattern with Osi. Two seasons ago, he walked out of practice after a dispute with Bill Sheridan, the Giants short-lived defensive coordinator. And he's made rather divisive remarks about his tenure with the team.
Lessons we can glean from this turn of events? That management and player speak on the record—with third parties present—and exchange ideas in order to facilitate a mutually beneficial conclusion. Or hey—don’t talk at all. Anything but this.