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Is Schobel Really a Holdout?

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Was Kelsay's new deal a "low blow" to Schobel?

Much speculation has arisen over the status of Aaron Schobel this past week after he missed the team's first four voluntary OTA practices. The majority of that speculation holds that Schobel is unhappy with his contract situation and is choosing to express this displeasure by ignoring his teammates for three weeks. I happen to agree with this speculation, and I think the situation warrants a bit of discussion at this point.

The catalyst of Schobel's likely irritation is Chris Kelsay's contract, which he signed in late February of this year. Kelsay received a four-year deal worth a total of $23 million, with a whopping $14 million in guaranteed money. The $5.75 million per year Kelsay received gave the young end literally a $1+ million average for each sack he accrued last season. This deal was, very obviously, a side-effect of the new salary cap - the $109 million cap in 2007 came with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that caused league salaries to escalate in a big way this off-season.

The deal that Schobel signed in 2004 came under much different circumstances. That year, the salary cap was a whopping $29 million lower, coming in at just a shade under $80 million. He signed a 5-year extension worth $23 million, with a $6.75 million signing bonus. This came after a year in which he recorded 11.5 sacks (as opposed to Kelsay's 5.5 in 2006).

The two deals are obviously different. The $23 million deals represent much different proportions of the respective team salary cap numbers, so in terms of value to the franchise, Schobel clearly is the leader. If his beef is with guaranteed money, then I'm on his side. Kelsay got way too much, and Schobel deserves more - he did, after all, go to the Pro Bowl last year after finishing near the top of the league in sacks with 14.

It's been clear for a while that Schobel felt he deserved a bigger extension in 2004. In fact, he made that pretty clear during an interview he gave right after signing the deal. This quote was very telling to me:

"Of course, I always want to make more. But if I would've known I'd be making this after three years, I'm so happy," Schobel said. "Maybe I left something on the table. Maybe I didn't. It's over with and I'm happy."

"Left something on the table." Left money on the table? Salary money or guaranteed money? We'll never be sure, but it definitely sounds like, even then, Schobel felt he got stiff-armed a bit by the franchise. I happen to agree.

With all of that in mind, I still feel that the deal Schobel signed showed more of a commitment by this franchise to a player. The deal was much bigger in proportion to the salary cap than Kelsay's. As a curiosity, I took Kelsay's deal and proportioned it to the 2004 salary cap: that year, Kelsay's deal would have equated to 4 years, $16.88 million with $10.28 million guaranteed. Still a huge advantage to Kelsay in the signing bonus department; that's where I think Schobel's beef is.

Dick Jauron's quote from OTAs today was interesting:

"We anticipate that he will be here for our minicamp here at the end (mid-June)," said Jauron. "We wish he was here with his teammates, but we expect him for the minicamp."

This is, from what I observe, the general feeling of the franchise. Schobel has two years left on that '04 extension, and this is his way of telling the franchise that there's going to be trouble down the line if he's not shown any love soon. I expect him to show up to mini camp in June, and to training camp in July, and to every game he plays this year. I also expect the franchise to, at some point (probably closer to the end of the regular season or early next off-season), restructure Schobel's deal to give him a little more guaranteed money before his deal runs out. That should keep him happy for the final year of his deal.

So, in conclusion, I'll answer the question posed in the headline: no, Aaron Schobel is not a holdout. Not yet, anyways.