It’s been a privilege to get to know former Bears GM Jerry Angelo over the last few years. Jerry is not only an incredibly connected and experienced veteran of NFL front offices (scouting with the Cowboys and Giants and serving as personnel director of the Bucs before heading to Chicago), but he’s a true gentleman and a man of great class.

Jerry has headed Inside the League’s interview prep work over the last couple years, and he’s worked in classroom settings and one on one with dozens of top draft prospects over the last several years. However, Jerry’s true value comes in drawing on his time in the league to address situations that arise in the NFL. He’s a great sounding  board and provides counsel on a number of football topics to people across the game.

For this reason, I reached out to Jerry this week to give me some perspective on a storyline that has dominated the early going of the 2018 season (and to some degree, even ’17): Seahawks safety Earl Thomas and his ongoing attempt to get a new deal from Seattle or to press for a trade to a team that will give him one.

There aren’t many people alive with first-hand experience in situations like the one that faces Thomas and the Seahawks, but Jerry is one of them. With that in mind, I decided to ask him about the Thomas scenario in Seattle as well as the Bell situation in Pittsburgh. My questions, and Jerry’s answers, are what follows.

  • Did you ever face a situation where a key player and locker room leader was openly dissatisfied with his contract with several years left on the deal, and campaigned for a trade? 
“I have experienced the situation you described where high-profile players were disgruntled with their contracts. I had several situations, one with (former Bears LB) Lance Briggs, (Bears) running back Thomas Jones and (Bears TE) Greg Olsen. All wanted new deals and requested trades if we weren’t able to accommodate their demands. For whatever it’s worth, they were all represented by the same agent. I’m not blaming the agent; it was just a coincidence.
“Saying all this, all I can say when you’re in those dilemmas, you ultimately have to do what’s in the best interest of the team. In Briggs’ case, we were able to work things out. Unfortunately, the other two situations ended up with us trading the players, which was my last resort, but we had to do something or potentially watch things continue to escalate and have a very negative affect on not only the player, but the team.
“The lesson is twofold. Do your best to stay in front (of) taking care of your core players. Secondly, when you come to an impasse, don’t put your head in the ground. It’s about damage control, and again, when in doubt, the only question to ask is, ‘How does this affect the team?’ “
  • How would you have handled this situation, starting with the time that Thomas initially expressed dissatisfaction with his contract?
“Really, I can’t sit and give a specific answer. I have a lot of respect for the Seahawks and their front office. I don’t know (if) they didn’t try to get something done, but couldn’t. There were some trade rumors, but we don’t know the specifics. These types of things happen all the time.
“All I can say is, that’s why they have contracts. A player can show dissatisfaction, but the bottom line is, he agreed to it. No one twisted his or his agent’s arm to take his last deal. Naturally, the next contract/contracts for players at his position are going to be larger in all likelihood, and why? (Because) the cap keeps going up. Players understand this, and certainly their agents do. Unfortunately for Thomas (I’m presuming), he won’t accept it. His gesture was child-like and uncalled for. Why? Because he didn’t get his way, and because he got injured, it’s the team’s fault? That’s what babies do.”
If the Thomas and Bell situations interest you, you’ve probably got a mind for the inner part of the game. That means you’d probably really enjoy our weekly newsletter, the Friday Wrap, which is read by thousands of people in the industry every week. In it, we talk about the news of the week that no one’s talking about, plus we look at trends and items of interest to people in the business of football.
This week, we’ll continue our conversation with Jerry, asking him several other questions, including how to maintain team harmony and salary structure in this situation; whether or not you risk losing the locker room in this situation; and how he would compare the situations involving Thomas and Steelers OH Le’Veon Bell, who’s also in a contract dispute.
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