Quarterback Tim Couch and his agent, Tom Condon, won their stare-down with the Green Bay Packers and Couch will join the Packers on his terms, not theirs.
Couch agreed Monday to a one-year contract with Green Bay worth about $1.25 million, plus about $500,000 in incentives. He is slated to back up Brett Favre this season and will become eligible for unrestricted free agency in March.
Those in the Couch camp believe that the market for the former top draft selection will be far better then than it was this year, when Couch didn't become available until Friday -- when he was released by the Cleveland Browns -- and most teams already had their quarterback situations settled. Couch failed as a starter in Cleveland. But he has ability and he still is only 26, and he and Condon seem convinced that he will get another chance to start at some point.
That opportunity perhaps could come in Green Bay. Favre probably will play one to three more seasons, and Couch could re-sign with the Packers if things go well this season and he senses that Favre's retirement is coming sooner rather than later. The Packers had been the most serious suitor for Couch ever since the Browns put him on the trading block in March after signing Jeff Garcia to be the starter.
The Packers were willing to send a draft choice to Cleveland to obtain Couch in a trade. But they weren't willing to inherit the terms of Couch's previous contract, which called for him to have a $7.6 million salary this season. So Condon and Couch were in control of the trade talks, and the prospective trade fell apart when the Packers could not agree to a new contract with them. The Packers wanted to sign Couch to a two-year contract if they were going to surrender a draft pick for him, while Condon and Couch were adamant about agreeing only to a one-year deal that would put Couch back on the market next year. They didn't want Couch stuck behind Favre for too long.
Tired of waiting, the Browns informed Couch's representatives last Wednesday that they would release him, saving the club $7.6 million on the salary cap. The move became official Friday after the Browns, the league office and the Players Association finished shuffling the paperwork for Couch to drop his grievance against the team, filed when club officials told Couch to stay away from the Browns' training facilities while they tried to trade him.
Still, it remains open to debate whether Couch, in the bigger picture, made the right decisions. Before they signed Garcia, the Browns offered Couch a revised two-year contract. The proposal reportedly would have reduced Couch's salaries to $3 million in the upcoming season and $3.5 million in the 2005 season, plus $3 million in possible incentives. Agreeing to the restructured deal likely would have kept Couch in Cleveland as the starter. But Couch, who was to have salaries of $7.6 million in 2004 and $8 million in 2005 under his previous contract, refused to agree to such a pay cut, and the Browns responded by signing Garcia to a four-year, $25 million contract that included a $5 million signing bonus.
The particulars of the next contract that Couch signs will determine whether he did the right thing. He, in effect, passed up a two-year, $6.5-million deal to be a starter in Cleveland for a one-year, $1.2-million contract to be a backup in Green Bay. But if he signs a lucrative contract next offseason and resurfaces as a starter, it will have been worth it.
Condon's busy offseason finally is slowing down a bit. The agent has controlled much of the action on the quarterback market in recent months. He negotiated Peyton Manning's seven-year, $98-million contract with the Indianapolis Colts that included a record $34.5-million signing bonus. He negotiated Marc Bulger's four-year, $19.074-million contract with the St. Louis Rams that sealed Kurt Warner's departure. And he engineered the draft-day trade that sent Manning's younger brother Eli, the top overall pick, from San Diego to the New York Giants.
The availability of Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey for the start of training camp in late July is in question. Shockey likely will seek a second opinion from University of Miami team doctor John Uribe before deciding how to treat his ailing right foot. Uribe performed surgery on Shockey's left knee in February.
Giants Coach Tom Coughlin told reporters Monday that the club's doctors have found a "hot spot" on Shockey's right foot, indicating an area in danger of fracturing or one in which a fracture could already exists. Shockey played with what the team called a stress reaction in the foot early last season before his season was ended by a torn left posterior cruciate ligament.
Shockey has been plagued by injuries in his two NFL seasons. He sprained a ligament in his right foot and had "turf toe" on his left foot as a rookie in 2002.
He could choose to have this injury treated by rest or perhaps surgery. The Giants are scheduled to open training camp on July 29.
Free-agent linebacker Jason Gildon visited the Buffalo Bills on Monday. Gildon, released this month by the Pittsburgh Steelers, previously visited Green Bay.