Mark May's decision to boycott training camp paid off handsomely. With a little help from Montreal of the Canadian Football League, Washington's first-round draft choice used his holdout to coax as much as another $100,000 out of the Redskins before agreeing to end his contract dispute today.
Pressured both by time and the embarrassment of possibly losing May, a standout offensive tackle, to the CFL, the Redskins abandoned their rigid negotiating posture this morning and agreed to a four-year contract with May that should bring the former University of Pittsburgh star about $650,000 before it expires.
May's contract is in line with what the Redskins paid Art Monk last season. Monk signed a six-year agreement for $1.2 million, an average of $200,000 a season.May's contract averages about $162,000.
Within hours of signing, May reported to training camp here. He is expected to begin workouts Wednesday. May will be used mainly at right tackle, where he will back up veteran George Starke.
Now the Redskins have to wonder how serious May was about signing with Montreal. If he wasn't, and if the CFL, was used as a bargaining bluff, the cost themselves a hefty chunk of cash over the next four years.
Although his attorney, Ralph Cindrich, left the impression May was heade to the CFL if the Redsins hadn't resumed negotiations, May said he never seriously considered going to Montreal.
"I kept Montreal very low-key and very much in the back of my mind," he said. "All I really ever wanted to do was play with the Redskins. Montreal came up but my main concern was reaching an agreement with the Redskins.
"I think the important thing was time. The Redskins wanted me in camp for three or four days before the veterans came in and I knew that if I was going to get to know the system, I should be in camp, too. We all got reasonable and found a way to compromise."
The Redskins also played down the effect Montreal's bid had on the negotiations, which were stalemated for weeks until Monday, when Bobby Beathard, Redskin general manager, flew to Pittsburgh to meet face to face for the first time with Cindrich and May. News that Montreal was seeking May did not emerge until last weekend.
But Washington obviously couldn't take any chances on being wrong about the CFL interest. Before, the Redskins were willing to let May hold out as long as he wanted. Team sources said the club knew it eventually would sign him -- "We couldn't risk losing him to Canada or have him sit out the season," said one official -- but had not expected the CFL to actively seek an American offensive tackle. Most Canadian clubs employ American players at the glamor positions, especially quarterback and running back.
But Montreal, which already has spent huge sums to sign other stars, crossed up the Redskins and was tossing around figures, according to Canadian sources, that change the whole tenor of the Redskin negotiations: a one-year contract, plus an option year calling for about $200,000 to $220,000 per season.
The Redskins had been offering a package that called for a signing bonus no higher than Monk's $200,000 figure from last season and a starting salary of probably $70,000. May wound up getting a bonus substantially highr than $200,000 and a starting salary in the $90,000 range, plus similar increases in the last three years.
May and Cindrich also compromised in the final talks. They had been seeking a contrct in the $800,000 area and had refused to come down despite requests by the Redskins to give a lower offer.
"It was just time for this to be settled," Beathard said. "I think the key was for Ralph and me to meet face to face. Once that happened, we got to know each other better and understnd what each of us wanted. Then it was a matter of working things out."
Neither Beathard nor Cindrich could explain why it took them three months to get together, so the holdout might have been avoided. Instead, they attempted to repair the damages caused by a series of bitter newspaper exchanges they conducted since the draft.
"What is past is past," said Cindrich, who once accused Beathard of impeding the negotiations deliberately. "If we have to deal with Ralph again, this won't happen because I know him better now," said Beathard, who once questioned if Cindrich had enough experience to negotiate for a No. 1 draft choice.
"Would Mark be signed now if Canada hadn't become involved? Yes, I think so," maintained Cindrich. "The timing just was right this week. They wanted Mark in camp and we wanted to get this settled. Those are the important reasons."
May said he had experienced "some down periods" during the prolonged negotiations. "but I did a lot of fishing and kept away from reading newspapers and watching television, where I could be influenced.I did a lot of talking with Franco Harris and Mel Blount (of the Steelers) and they told me to be optimistic, that this would work out.
"I have no bad feelings. I've already forgotten about what happened during the negotiations. I've worked out every day and I'm in good shape. I'm just glad to get this over with and get into camp and start playing."
Of course, the Redskin coaching staff was delighted to get May in uniform. He had been drafted on the assumption that veteran Terry Hermeling would either retire or be cut, leaving a roster opening for a young tackle. But as long as he held out, the Redskins were scrambling to train free agent Joe Jacoby, a 6-7, 299-pound prospect from Louisville, to become the third tackle.
Now May will be groomed as Starke's eventual replacement. He originally was thought capable of taking over for Hermeling, but when he was tried at left tackle in a May minicamp, he struggled noticeably and was quickly returned to the right side, where he now will stay. Young Jerry Scanlan, a second-year free agent, has become the starting left tackle for Hermeling.
"This is a learning week and Mark needs the instruction time," said Joe Bugel, line coach. "He is intelligent and he'll pick things up fast. But once the veterans get in here at the end of the week, the pace will pick up and he could have become lost. He was a good pas protector in college but our techniques here are a little different."