When Leon Washington showed up to practice last week, you could hear Jets fans breathing a long sigh of relief. The running back is a key to the team's offensive plans in 2009, and a protracted holdout would be a major setback to what they were trying to accomplish.
That may have been a bit premature. When Washington spoke to reporters after practice on Tuesday, it wasn't hard to hear hints that a training camp holdout may be in the offing. After saying he hoped to be at training camp, Washington dropped this quote.
"You try to stay away from assumptions, but I will try to let you figure that out. I can’t predict the future, but at the same time I want fair market value."
Fair market value was a point that Washington touched on several times, even going so far as saying that his fair market value would be the same regardless of the status of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement. Right now, the CBA is set to expire after the 2009 season which would make Washington a restricted free agent instead of an unrestricted one. That means that the salaries of Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren Sproles, each in the neighborhood of $6 million and good comps for Washington, aren't applicable.
Despite Washington's claims, that does change his market value. As a pending unrestricted free agent, Washington would have a significant amount of leverage on the Jets. Without that, it would be much less likely that another team would make a serious offer for Washington's services. Even if they did make an offer, the Jets would have the right to match it which means his market value is a complete unknown.
The best case scenario for the Jets, even if it costs them a little more money, is for the league and union to reach a CBA agreement. With a new NFLPA director in DeMaurice Smith and owners digging in for a fight on several issues, though, it doesn't seem like one is right around the corner. That could mean a holdout, and the Jets and Washington will be the worse for it.