King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

Reggie Bush won't skip the season, but his fight for top-pick money is a tough match. Plus: The annual "should this guy be in the Hall of Fame?" orgy.

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As of Friday morning, Reggie Bush is officially a holdout with the New Orleans Saints. The Heisman Trophy winner has reportedly threatened to sit out the season and reenter next year’s draft if he can’t get the deal he wants.

That would make the Houston Texans look like geniuses for passing on him with the top pick in the draft and taking North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams, and would give the Texans a theoretical chance to pass over him again. It would also give the Saints, who took him at No. 2, a realistic chance to leave him on the board at No. 1 again next year.

It won’t happen. The threat is just agent rhetoric. But Bush wants top-pick money, and he’s probably going to be in for a fight to get it.

The Saints want to slot him, meaning they want to give him a deal fit for a No. 2 pick, somewhere between Williams’ $54 million, six-year deal with the Texans, with $26.5 million of that guaranteed, and the $58 million, five-year deal — $25.7 million guaranteed — Vince Young just signed with the Tennessee Titans.

The big number, the maximum value of the contract’s salary, bonuses and incentives, is what gets thrown around most, but that’s a pretty meaningless number, which is why the Titans were willing to “give” their No. 3 pick “$4 million” more than the Texans gave the No. 1 pick. It’s funny money. Long before that back part of that contract is fulfilled, the team will either cut the player if he underperforms or renegotiate the deal if he meets or exceeds expectations.

The term of the contract’s pretty meaningless too, except for salary cap pro-rating purposes. With a five-year deal compared to Williams’ six-year package, it looks like Young is making more guaranteed money per year, but Williams’ contract could be 300 years — if that were allowed under the salary cap rules — and it wouldn’t make any difference in terms of how many cars these guys can buy.

They’re not getting to those last few years. The thing to look at is that Williams is guaranteed $26.5 million and Young is guaranteed $25.7 million.

So what the Saints want to do is bring Bush in for somewhere between those two figures. That’s not a lot of negotiating room, less than a million bucks, and what’s a million bucks between friends?

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The complication is that Bush and his agent, Joel Segal, will argue that Bush is the real No. 1, that the only reason the Texans passed him over for Williams is that Williams was willing to accept a low-ball deal. Bush was offered the same deal and turned it down.

How hard Segal and Bush are willing to push that point, and how resistant the Saints are going to be to go against the slotting protocol and give Bush a penny more than $26.5 million guaranteed, will determine how long Bush’s holdout will be.

The fact that the holdout has begun doesn’t mean much. Rookies are hurt by missing camp time, but running backs are hurt less than other players because the transition to pro ball is easier for them than it is at other positions. Still hard, but easier. And it’s not necessarily a bad idea for an undersized back like Bush, who is listed at 200 pounds and is therefore almost certainly smaller than that, to miss a week or two of hitting.

Bush has plenty of leverage here. He’s a likable kid with a million-watt smile who has electrified the beleaguered fan base and won hearts by contributing time and money to Hurricane Katrina relief and buying a condo in New Orleans.

And his foe in this battle is a sad-sack franchise with a hated owner, Tom Benson, who appeared last year to try to use the suffering of and misfortune of his team’s fans to get a sweet deal from San Antonio, or any other city willing to enrich him further to get him to move the Saints. It is very, very hard to lose a public-relations battle with the New Orleans Saints.

Bush also has a reported $5 million in endorsement income already in his pocket, though I imagine if Hummer, Pepsi, Subway and Adidas didn’t already have out clauses if Bush refused to play, they sent their lawyers scrambling the moment word got out of the reported threat to sit out.

Here’s a prediction, not that you asked for one: After some preseason games are played, but before New Orleans fans really turn on him, Bush will sign a deal for something like $26.4 million guaranteed, but with a “total” figure well in excess of $60 million. It will also have reachable, so-called likely to be earned incentives that will end up paying Bush more than Williams.

That’ll get Bush in uniform without disrupting the slotting system, and allow Bush and Segal to proclaim the deal as the richest rookie contract.

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Buck O’Neil not the only deserving one [PERMALINK]

The baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony is this weekend. Bruce Sutter is going in along with 17 former players and executives from Negro League and pre-Negro League baseball.

There have been petition drives and plenty of ink spilled about the exclusion of 94-year-old Buck O’Neil, the greatest ambassador the Negro Leagues have ever known. This column said its piece on O’Neil when he didn’t make the cut in February.

The short version if you don’t feel like clicking: The selection committee blew it. O’Neil should be in. But I would add that I’m not particularly in favor of petition drives to get people into the Hall of Fame. Though O’Neil is both popular and deserving, enshrinement shouldn’t be a popularity contest.

This is also a time of year when we typists like to scribble about who should or shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. Whether we’re talking about old guys such as Omar Vizquel, Craig Biggio and Bernie Williams or even older guys like Buck Weaver, Gil Hodges and Lefty O’Doul, the old “should he or shouldn’t he” column is a sure space filler during a slow time of the year.

And hot. Did I mention it’s hot?

It’s hard to think about things to write about when it’s this hot. So we like to write about whether this guy or that deserves to go to Cooperstown because we need to fill.

Space.

I would never insult you by resorting to such tricks. I’ll just tell you who I think has been criminally neglected in these discussions and let it go at that. You don’t need me to make the arguments because they stand on their own. Anyone with eyes can see that the Hall of Fame isn’t worthy of the name until it opens its doors for Ollie Brown.

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Table Talk chat reminder [PERMALINK]

The August Table Talk chat will be Wednesday at 3 p.m. EDT. Finally, the long-promised move to the first Wednesday of the month is coming to fruition. Our long national nightmare is over. Please note the time, which is later than usual.

Join me then in this column’s thread for at least an hour, and maybe more, of talk about whatever you want to talk about.

Previous column: Tour de France shocker

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