Strange as this may seem, Dexter Manley says he is not happy right now.
"The Redskins are paying me pennies," the Washington Redskins third-year defensive end said today, "and I want dollars."
Right now, Manley doesn't feel he is getting what he is worth. The Redskins have offered him a substantial pay raise, but he wants to be paid as well as Dallas' Randy White, whose $318,000 salary was the highest of any NFL defensive lineman last season.
Manley is entering the final year of a three-year contract he signed with Washington after he was drafted in the fifth round of the 1981 draft from Oklahoma State. Manley is scheduled for a $60,000 base salary this year, now the minimum for a third-year player. Over his first two years, Manley had base salaries of $40,000 and $50,000.
The Redskins agree with Manley that because of his productive season last year, including a team-high 9 1/2 quarterback sacks, he is now worthy of a raise. Consequently, they have offered Manley a new multiyear contract, beginning with an increase to $140,000 for this season, a substantial signing bonus, and pay raises in increments over the next several seasons.
The average base salary of an NFL defensive lineman last season was $89,716.
Manley says the new Redskins offer is not enough.
Sitting at his home in Texas, domain of the Dallas Cowboys team he loves to sack, Manley talked in unusually serious tones. "I don't want to cause any animosity or anything, but I feel I'm one of the best defensive linemen in the National Football League. I just want to be paid what I'm worth," he said.
"Randy White is a good ballplayer," Manley added, "but he can't make the plays I can and he can't excite people like I can."
"We think Dexter is a darn good football player, though not at the stage where he is a complete football player, and we want to compensate him for that," said Bobby Beathard, Redskins general manager. "We not only want to compensate him for what he has done, but for what he is going to do. We think Dexter can be a star in this league."
Manley, 24, says if he is not offered a multiyear contract worthy of his talents, that he will play for the Redskins this year and then turn to free agency.
"There's no telling what I could get on the market out there as a free agent," he said, citing the recent $5 million contract signed by Denver's John Elway. "If he can get it," Manley said, "I should get it.
"If I go out and have another great year, I'd be in as good a position as anyone else in the National Football League. I know for a fact that I could go to the USFL (in 1984) or that another NFL team would be willing to pay me what I'm worth and give up a first-round pick" to the Redskins as compensation.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL Management Council and the NFL Players Association, compensation would be two first-round picks if Manley were paid what White made last year.
Jim Kiles, Manley's Washington-based attorney, says, "One alternative we are looking at is to get Dexter under (an improved Redskins') contract for 1983, which will avoid the possibility of Dexter and the Redskins being at conflict for this upcoming season. No matter what anyone says, an unhappy player just won't produce as well as a happy player. I doubt very much that we will have a long-term agreement."
To which Beathard said, "It wouldn't make much sense in a lot of ways to sign (Manley) for a lot more this year and then let him be in the same (free agent's) position at the end of this year that he would be in now."
Beathard points out that Dallas' White, a former University of Maryland star, has proven himself over an eight-year career and has been a team leader.
"If a player wants to make what Randy White makes, he has to have a proven track record," Beathard said, "and he has to make that money through incentives."
Kiles says the Manley-White comparison is similar to a past situation in baseball: "Although he hadn't done much at the time, two years ago you would have taken (Baltimore's) Eddie Murray on your baseball team over (California's) Rod Carew. That's because you have got the potential in Murray. It's the same way with Dexter and Randy White.
"But Bobby does have a legitimate position when he says, as a third-year player, he doesn't know if Dexter will continue at his level of last year and that if (the Redskins) commit to paying Dexter that much money, then they will have a good ballplayer without incentive to become a great ballplayer."
Manley says he will report to Redskins training camp here Saturday, the mandatory reporting date for veterans. "Once I get to camp, I don't want any more negotiating. I'm there to play football, and that's all," said Manley.
"I'm going to go out and make myself more marketable this year. I won't lay down. No way. I'd never let the (offensive) man in front of me whup me because I was unhappy about something. I think I will get what I'm worth in '84. I'm patient. I think in due time, things will happen for me.
"I don't want people to think I'm running off at the mouth. I don't think I'm saying anything out of line. If I am, I apologize. I just have great ambition. I want to be the man of the '80s. I just want to be straightforward and up front about this.
"I love the Washington Redskins and I think they have the greatest fans in the world. But if I'm going to be part of this team's foundation, then I want to be paid for it, not feel like I'm being cheated. I'm fair with people and I think they should be fair with me."
Wide receiver Alvin Garrett, entering his option year, has signed for two more seasons, Beathard said. Beathard returned to Washington late today where he will meet Tuesday with Jack Mills, agent of center Jeff Bostic, who is also entering his option year . . . .Veterans started to report today. Among those arriving were quarterback Joe Theismann, offensive guard Mark May, wide receiver Art Monk and tight ends Clint Didier, Rick Walker and Don Warren.