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Keeping up with Thomas Jones

To: Thomas Jones

Subject: Contract Negotiations

CC: Tom Condon

Dear TJ,

I've been trying to keep tabs on you here from Charlottesville, but I've been pretty busy looking for a summer job. I know, it should be simple, considering all the ice cream parlors, restaurants and fast food places in town, but as an All-American running back turned NFL superstar you wouldn't know.

Oh, wait. You would. Cardinals training camp started Friday, sans Mr. 2000 First-round draft pick. So that probably means you're at home in Big Stone Gap, Va., lounging on the La-Z-Boy, watching the British Open with a Bud in one hand and a cell phone connected to your agent, Tom Condon, in the other.

Update
  • Cardinals Reach Deal with Jones (from NFL.com)
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    Based on past offers, my guess is that Bidwell came to Condon with a number well below your appropriate value. A couple weeks ago, he proposed a $5 million signing bonus. That sounds like a lot, but it's still $500,000 less than what Brian Urlacher received from the Chicago Bears, and he was picked two picks after you.

    Thomas, everybody knows how nice a guy you are. That you volunteer as a Big Brother for at-risk teens. That you were voted high school class president three times. You're a model of excellence in a sports world that promotes irresponsibility and selfishness.

    But now it's time to stop being such a nice guy. This is one time for you to be selfish. After setting eight ACC and 15 school records, you should get the payday you deserve. The Heisman Trophy wasn't there in December, but now lifetime financial security is just a few weeks away. But only if you don't rush it and cave in.

    Here's a few tips to keep you sane and on the couch while your body begs you to go to Flagstaff and jump onto the playing field, pen in hand:

    1) Don't listen to the naysayers.

    People will criticize you for demanding millions of dollars in a sport that boasts the most millionaires of any. But they're the same ones clipping 40-cent coupons on dog food and waking up at 5 a.m. the night after Thanksgiving to beat the rush to Wal-Mart's Christmas sale. Don't tell me they wouldn't take advantage of every cent they could find.

    2) Know your market value.

    A good, durable running back is in demand now, and the market shows it. Last season, Edgerrin James brought in $14.8 million for his rookie-of-the-year performance. Eddie George just signed a contract giving him $42 million over five years. And James Stewart - the same James Stewart that's never had a 1,000-yard season - got $30 million from the Lions. As the best running back coming out of college this season, you should command something in the James-territory: a contract that includes a signing bonus in the $9 million-range and is laden with incentives.

    Related Links
  • Running back trio replaces Jones (by Sam Le)
  • Arizona Cardinals Coverage on NFL.com
  • Arizona Cardinals Official Website
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    3) Don't be Ricky Williams.

    And that doesn't just mean don't wear a wedding dress on the cover of a national publication. Williams will probably go down in history as signing the most ill-advised rookie contract ever. Remember how Edgerrin James took in $14 mil for his season? Well, Williams made roughly one-quarter of that at $3.2 million. That's because he was stupid and signed an inexperienced agent (rapper Master P, who he's now fired) and was too eager to sign a bad contract and report to camp. Don't make the same mistakes.

    4) Take advantage of their desperation.

    They need you for public relations, Thomas. As articulate a spokesperson as you are, as inspiring a figure as you are, Bidwell needs you to secure the $331 million stadium project the team wants and the state votes on in November. If a lengthy holdout turns ugly, the Cardinals and their dreams of a domed complex could fall by the wayside.

    It seems that, as so often was the case at Virginia, the ball is in your hands. Good luck, Thomas. Hopefully by September, we'll see you at Sun Devil Stadium, running over tacklers and riding the money train.

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