When Doug Flutie arrives home from Japan on Tuesday, he will be presented with a contract proposal offered by the New Jersey Generals of the U.S. Football League that would pay him $1 million a year over the next four seasons, according to sources familiar with terms of the agreement.
But Flutie, the Boston College quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, wants to wait until he receives an offer from the National Football League before he makes a final decision.
There are now indications that the Buffalo Bills, who have the first choice in the NFL draft on April 30, will make a determination in the next two weeks whether they want to choose Flutie, or trade the pick to one of at least three teams that have contacted them about acquiring the right to go No. 1.
The Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys all covet Flutie and have been in touch with the Bills, according to NFL sources. And all three teams have been put on hold by a Buffalo organization that only last week settled its coaching situation by announcing that Kay Stephenson will remain as head coach at least for the upcoming season.
Bob Woolf, the Boston attorney who represents Flutie, believes that the announcement on Stephenson will pave the way for the Bills to make a decision on his client.
"It is an extremely complex situation, but the Buffalo situation is straightening itself out, and I expect to hear from them soon," Woolf said in an interview Friday following another negotiating session with the Generals earlier in the day in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Generals owner Donald Trump has said he does not want the talks to extend beyond the first week in February.
The New York Times reported Saturday the figure being offered by New Jersey was $1.3 million a year, none of it deferred, but sources told The Washington Post those numbers are inflated.
"Doug Flutie wants to hear from both sides and make a rational decision," Woolf said. "I am trying to get the best contract I can from both sides, and let the player make the choice . . .
"Doug has received an extremely impressive offer from the Generals. As it stands now, I'd say it was 7 to 8 (on a scale of 10) he'd go with the USFL, but the NFL hasn't had their turn at bat, either. And the Generals say they want this done before their season starts. Time is also becoming a problem."
Flutie played in an all-star game in Japan Saturday night with his East team losing to the West, 28-14. He completed 14 of 25 passes for 208 yards without throwing a touchdown pass. Flutie said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Tokyo Saturday that "If the contract with the Generals is something I feel the NFL can't compete with, I won't wait (for the outcome of the NFL draft)."
Flutie, from Natick, Mass., has said publicly he would dearly love to play for the home-town Patriots, and New England has said that it would make Flutie its No. 1 choice if he were still available. Other NFL sources say that privately, Flutie has indicated he would prefer not to play in Buffalo, but that he has not ruled it out entirely.
Buffalo General Manager Terry Bledsoe insisted in an interview Friday that "we have not made any decision regarding Doug Flutie or any other player," and that "we have talked to a number of teams about a number of different things.
"I don't look at it as if we're under any pressure at all. I think we've got a choice that is important to us for the future of our football team. We want to be absolutely certain that it's the right decision. We're looking at a half-dozen kids, and we have a decision to make on who it will be."
Bledsoe indicated the Bills might not make a final decision on who they will pick first until after a series of workouts in Tempe, Ariz., organized by two scouting combines and held the week after the Super Bowl. It is not known whether Flutie will attend. Bills owner Ralph Wilson has had a reputation as a somewhat penurious owner who has been unwilling to spend lavishly to sign or keep top talent.
Several NFL sources indicate that Woolf is pushing the New Jersey deal because it would put Flutie in the highly visible New York market, where endorsements and other business opportunities would offer rewards far beyond his salary.
Woolf says, however, that he is simply trying to get the best deal he can for his client.
Also involved in this high-stakes game are the television networks, who know that Flutie attracted impressive ratings whenever Boston College appeared on national telecasts.
Peter Lund, new head of CBS Sports, said in an interview that the network is keeping a hands-off approach, though it would dearly love to see Flutie play in the NFL.
"We're not at all involved in it, never have and never will be," Lund said. "If we did want to get involved, I guarantee the NFL would tell us to go fly a kite . . .
"Personally, I do think he will be a exciting, successful player. But as we've all seen in the past, there certainly is no guarantee of that."
Arthur Watson, president of NBC sports, said "I think he would make an attractive addition, but he won't make or break anyone's performance ratings-wise. The USFL also has a lot of problems . . . They may have to marshal their resources to pool it and get the guy. The NFL does not have to do that."
They do have to do something, however, and Woolf says, "we've made it loud and clear we want to hear from them. I would imagine that will happen very soon."