ALLEN PARK - Special teams practice yesterday had a strange look to it. While everyone gathered around first-round pick Mike Williams, who was seeing his first action as a Lion working on the side with quarterbacks coach Greg Olson, wide receivers coach Fred Graves and under the watchful eye of head coach Steve Mariucci, a guy who should have been getting reps with the unit, was not there.
Eddie Drummond continues his curious decision to hold out for a long term contract. How does a player who is a restricted free agent holdout when he has a $1.4 million tender offer in front of him?
Drummond has very little leverage in negotiations with the Lions and some reports say that Drummond had virtually agreed to a four-year contract with the team before his agent, Drew Rosenhaus nixed the deal.
On the plus side, Drummond is without question the best kick returner in the NFC and arguably, the entire NFL. The main negative for the former undrafted free agent out of Penn State is that he has been unable to stay healthy. In each of his three NFL seasons, Drummond has missed a substantial portion of that time due to injury.
The Lions could have reduced their tender offer to the outstanding return man substantially after June 1, thanks to a provision in the league's collective bargaining agreement, but out of respect for Drummond's pro bowl season in 2004, they did not.
However, Lions' C.O.O. Tom Lewand appears to be getting fed up with Drummond's lack of response to the Lions very fair approach. "He can come in and sign the one-year tender or he can sit on his couch," Lewand told the Detroit News.
That is exactly what Drummond is doing.
There is no chance that the Lions will release him even if he doesn't report, yet they can put him on the reserve/did not report list and retain his rights for another season.
If he reports late in camp, which is his likely course of action, it would force the Lions to make a roster move. They would have the option of carrying him on their 53-man roster and making him one of their inactives, while using R.W. McQuarters or some other player as their primary returner until he gets back into playing shape. A move like this would generate even more ill will between the parties.
Drummond is a valuable player for the Lions as their primary returner. He likely realizes that with his injury history his career cut be over at any time so he wants some security.
The Lions likely realize that as well and don't want to tie up a substantial amount of precious cap space in a player who hasn't shown the ability to stay on the field. The team has stated if he signs the one-year tender they would begin work on a long-term deal to stave off losing him to unrestricted free agency, but Drummond appears to be saying 'now or never.' This looks like a marriage that's going to end up in divorce.
Best case scenario: Drummond signs the tender, plays out the season and becomes an unrestricted free agent at season's end.