In the intricate game of negotiating with a first-round holdout, a contest that entails equals parts chess and chicken, leverage is critical.
49ers owner Jed York might have inadvertently surrendered some of that leverage to receiver Michael Crabtree on Friday night.
Addressing the ongoing contract impasse between the Niners and the tenth overall pick in the draft, York said (per John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle), “We’ll get it done at some point. They’ve had discussions. We’ll get it done. We’re all in.”
Frankly, we’re not sure what “we’re all in” means in this context. But if it means that the Niners will do whatever it takes to get the deal done, then agent Eugene Parker might be emboldened in his quest to get more for Crabtree than receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey pocketed from the Raiders from the seventh overall slot.
Apart from the precise import of “we’re all in,” York has essentially committed to getting the deal done. This means that Parker can continue to dig in his heels, confident that, at some point, York will give his football operations the order to do whatever is necessary to get Crabtree into the fold.
And so the best approach for any owner who’s asked about a contract squabble continues to be offering a quote along these lines: “I trust our front office to act in the best interests of the franchise, and I’m confident in the abilities of the people who are negotiating the contract on our behalf.”
UPDATE: Though the Chronicle was silent on this point, Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reported that York said “we’re all in” regarding the reality that the window for trading Crabtree’s rights expired on Friday. We’re still not sure it was the best choice of words, given that there was no indication that the Niners were ever considering unloading Crabtree onto another team.