The firm handshake and warm smile of a man in a suit only has value if there’s conviction behind his words, and if he’s not a pathological liar. New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora thinks one lie he’s been told will have a lasting effect on his bank account.
The two-time All Pro has a sworn affadavit that will be filed next month as part of the players’ antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Umenyiora has a formal complaint against the Giants that stems from promises made by general manager Jerry Reese during a meeting in April of 2008.
At the time Umenyiora had just completed a season in which he ranked fifth in the league with 13 sacks. Despite battling through injuries in 2006 and playing in only 11 games, Umenyiora’s 2007 season finished a three-year stretch in which he had 19.5 sacks. So naturally, the meeting between Reese and Umenyiora just prior to the start of April mini-camps in 2008 was all about the Benjamins.
Umenyiora signed a seven-year contract worth $41.38 million in 2005, with $15 million guaranteed. Just two years into that contract he wanted to know when the Giants would be open to restructuring that deal so that it’s more in line with the money being made by the top defensive ends in the league. According to his affadavit, Reese’s response was clear, and so was Umenyiora’s understanding of when he’d be getting paid.
“After about an hour of discussing my current contract, as well as the contracts of other defensive ends currently playing in the National Football League, Mr. Reese told me that two years from the start of the 2008 league year, if I was currently playing at a high level, we’d either renegotiate my current contract so that it would be equal to that of the top five defensive ends playing or I would be traded to a team that would do that.
“Before leaving the meeting, I asked Mr. Reese twice if he was absolutely sure that would be the case. He then told me that he was an honest and church-going man and that he would not lie, which I believed to be the case. Under the penalty of perjury these statements are true and accurate.”
Umenyiora’s actions show that he’s not too eager to play in Gotham anymore. He has two years left on his deal, but he’s already moved out of his home in New Jersey. At 29 years old he’s been a consistently productive pass rusher when healthy, recording 12 more sacks last season, and most notably leading the league in forced fumbles with 10.
But it’s that whole staying healthy and not being petulant thing that’s really plagued Umenyiora. He’s coming off another offseason surgery, and he’s included in the players’ antitrust suit because the NFLPA is well aware of his situation and beef with the Giants’ front office. New York will potentially have a disgruntled player making $3.5 million next year, or more likely sitting out because–as schefter writes–Umenyiora wants either a contract extension, or a trade. He’s no longer confident that he’ll get the former from the Giants.
Greed for green and players lusting after money while they’re still relatively healthy certainly isn’t a new concept in the NFL, but Umenyiora’s timing is a little curious given the reported good vibes between the owners and players during the labor talks. He’s either being used a pawn, or he sees the dog days of June when training camp would normally be about six weeks away as the ideal time to gauge his trade value.
It’s probably a bit of both, but at least we know what LeSean McCoy thinks.