Incognito is still talking to Rams about a contract
Incognito is still talking to Rams about a contract
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Wednesday, Aug. 17 2005
Signing offensive tackle Alex Barron to a five-year contract last week didn't
complete the negotiating "season" for the Rams. They remain one draft pick
short of having their full complement of players in training camp. Namely,
third-round draft pick Richie Incognito.
Incognito still is recovering from offseason kneecap surgery, and at minimum
remains several weeks away from being able to practice. The priority for the
Rams was signing their healthy draft picks.
But with all the other 2005 draft picks signed and practicing, Incognito
remains in a contract stalemate with the Rams. In fact, things have reached the
point that Incognito's agent said his client might never show up.
"I would say it's a viable option for him to sit out the season and re-enter
the draft in 2006," the agent, Jack Scharf, said.
Incognito was chosen in the middle of the third round, but according to Scharf,
the Rams are offering fourth-round money.
"I'm not bashing the Rams," Scharf said. "All I've wanted to do this whole time
is get Richie a contract that's commensurate with his draft position."
The current market value for a player selected in Incognito's draft position is
a signing bonus of around $525,000. Scharf wouldn't reveal the exact amount of
signing bonus that the Rams are offering, but it's believed to be at least
$100,000 lower than $525,000.
Two factors are working against Incognito:
For one, after signing all their other draft picks, the
Rams don't have enough money in their rookie cap to pay Incognito market value.
For another, the Rams don't know for sure when Incognito will be
able to play because of the injury.
"We didn't ask the Rams to draft him," Scharf said. "There were plenty of other
teams calling the morning of the draft that were interested in drafting Richie
"My whole argument is you knew what you were getting. You knew he was hurt. ...
He did nothing to prompt this. He didn't hurt himself jumping out of an
airplane. He didn't hurt himself riding a motorcycle.
"He's been working out and rehabbing eight hours a day, six days a week. Richie
wants to be there. This isn't a holdout situation."
Jay Zygmunt, the Rams' president of football operations, rarely talks about
negotiations in the media. And when asked about Scharf's threat to have
Incognito re-enter the draft, Zygmunt declined to comment on Tuesday.
"We have offered him the remaining cap (money) in our rookie pool, and offered
him both a three-year deal and a four-year deal," Zygmunt said. "We have also
offered him guaranteed money commensurate with picks around him."
Although Zygmunt declined to offer specifics on the nature of the guaranteed
money, it's believed to be the signing bonus plus part of Incognito's base
Incognito, an offensive lineman, originally suffered the injury working out at
the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in late February. He aggravated the
injury at a subsequent pro workout day, and underwent surgery after the draft.
There was more risk involved to drafting Incognito than just health issues. An
all-Big 12 blocker for Nebraska in 2003, Incognito hasn't played since. He was
suspended by two head coaches at Nebraska for a variety of indiscretions, and
left Nebraska before the 2004 season. He tried to enroll at Oregon, but left
there after failing to meet requirements set down by coach Mike Bellotti.
Many of the incidents involving Incognito have been anger management issues.
Scharf said Incognito still is taking anger management classes, and said he
hasn't been involved in any incidents in the past year. Coach Mike Martz said
the Rams spent a lot of time discussing those issues with Incognito during a
"If there were concerns, we've been able to work through those things," Martz
said on draft day.
When the Rams selected Incognito, Martz also said the timetable for recovery
following kneecap surgery was three to four months. Four months will have
passed at the end of this month.
Incognito won't be able to practice by then. But Scharf said he could be ready
to go by Week 5 of the regular season.
"He's a ways away from being able to compete actively and take the pounding
that offensive linemen take," Scharf said.
Incognito has been running and lifting at the Athletes Performance Institute in
the Phoenix area. But Incognito could be doing that work in St. Louis if he
were under contract, and could also be attending meetings and getting "mental
reps" watching practice at Rams Park.
"Richie wants to get to St. Louis," Scharf said.
Even with the Rams unable to give Incognito a "market deal" because of their
rookie cap limitations, Scharf would like to make up the difference at the back
end of the contract. Incentives, escalators or void-able years could be used to
help Incognito recoup that money later in his contract.
"If you don't have it now, let the kid come in and earn it," Scharf said.
The trouble is, the Rams don't like to include such features (incentives,
escalators, etc.) in their contracts, especially if it's a draft pick chosen
later than the first round. In fact, it's believed they have never included
such features in a contract for a player selected after the first round.
All indications are that they don't intend to change that policy with
"The fact is, this is different," Scharf said.
Three weeks into training camp, the Rams don't share that opinion.
Re: Incognito is still talking to Rams about a contract
I can see both sides of this argument. One, Incognito is not only injured but he's also had character issues in the past. The Rams only have so much money left in their rookie pool, as well. But on the other hand, they knew the situation when they drafted Incognito, and need to be able to handle it accordingly. I'll be interested to see how this situation works out.