As a fan, it’s tough to support a player who holds out of training camp. No matter how much less a player makes than he “deserves,” he’s still getting a boatload and a half more than anyone you know. All fans care about is the team — and any player who holds out appears to care a lot more about themselves than winning a championship.
But, in all honesty, while I don’t necessarily want Trent Cole to hold out at the beginning of training camp, I think he should for his own sake.
First of all, it’s not like he needs to learn or compete in training camp. He’s the starting RDE and that’s not going to change with a few days or weeks missed. I’m all for working out with the team and getting in shape for the season, but there’s not much for Cole to gain at Lehigh. And there’s something positive about keeping him from suffering a Stewart Bradley-esque injury.
Second, he’s clearly underpaid. Foxsports.com compares Cole’s contract to Julius Peppers’s, but let’s put that aside for now. Soon, Cole won’t even be the top-paid defensive end on his own team — that distinction will go to first round pick Brandon Graham, who will get north of $12 million guaranteed cash (Brian Orakpo’s haul last year) before ever taking an NFL snap. Cole’s gotta be looking down the line, wondering why he can’t get some of that dough.
Third, Cole’s not getting any younger. He’s only 27 now, but he’s played in 65 straight games including in the playoffs. He can’t, and shouldn’t, count on that streak continuing forever. With that in mind, Cole deserves to be paid at least close to market value for the last few years of his prime. You never know when that window could close, and it will likely happen before he gets to free agency in 2014.
But the key point is number four: Cole’s never going to have better leverage to renegotiate his deal. Think back to the summer of 2008. Brian Westbrook was coming off a career year that put him at the top of running backs in the NFL. More importantly, he had proven that he was by far the most valuable member of the team. Westbrook parlayed that, coupled with a holdout threat carried over from his refusal to attend camp in 2005, into another contract extension (ok, so it was basically just a raise).
Cole is in a similar situation now. He is by far the most important player on the defense, and may be the most indispensable guy on the team. Just as the Eagles recognized that Westbrook was their only weapon on offense going into 2008 and drafted DeSean Jackson, so they have indicated how thin they are on the defensive line by completely reloading at that position. Sure, Graham may become great and eventaually replace Cole the way DeSean replaced Westbrook, but right now Cole’s playmaking and all-around production remain invaluable. If he wants to renegotiate his contract, the Eagles have to listen.
Plus, because Cole is indispensible and so obviously underpaid, he likely wouldn’t receive the same vitriol from the public that is often directed at training camp hold outs. Or would he? What do you think?