So, it looks like McNeill's is getting his long term deal after all the sitting out and crying and name calling and hardballing. Many people consider this a decisive victory for "the A.J. way" and it's hard to argue with that, but I'm going to do it anyway.
First, very obviously, we could have just done a deal to begin with if that was the ultimate plan, and then our Pro Bowl offensive lineman would have been here through camp and the first 5 games. Unfortunately, our GM decided for some reason to lump McNeill and Jackson together and fight them that way rather than approach each negotiation uniquely. Brilliant strategy.
Second, I can't say for sure, but I believe the only reason that McNeill is signing with us is similar to the reason we had the leverage to pull this crap in the first place. Because of the way the current CBA is structured, McNeill was not given unrestricted free agency status (as other players have been in any year before), and instead the team was allowed to keep the rights to the player for a fraction of his worth. Because of the uncertainty of the CBA going forward if McNeill sat out this season, and next season results in a lockout, the player might have to go two years without a full paycheck. A.J., in essence, used circumstance to ruthlessly threaten McNeill and his family's livelihood, which any of you out there would crucify your own boss over*.
If next season was assured, I think McNeill never would have signed. In fact, the NFLPA is so certain of a lockout, they have been telling their players to save their money and make smart investments. McNeill had to have realized he would have no money to save or invest unless he bent to the Godfather's will. No other team can come to his rescue. It's unlikely anybody will be doing any serious shopping next offseason if there is to be no football, and A.J. has shown he's not above holding on to a "malcontent" even in the face of a better deal than what he'd get in compensation from the league.
Whatever happens, I will be amazed if we get the best effort McNeill hass to offer. If this deal gets done, he may very well take whatever guaranteed money is offered and proceed to loaf it until the team trades or cuts him. And don't think it would ruin him either. There are tons of GMs who would jump at the chance to sign McNeill two years from now, especially in light of what another couple of A.J.'s "malcontents" are doing for the NY Jets this year.
Most players will serve up platitudes to the media, telling them after negotiations like this that they realize the NFL is a business. But it human nature to bristle when someone questions your worth. The other players on this team cannot be looking forward to their own negotiations. When all is said and done, A.J. may have won the battle, but the war could take him in the end.
*Dean Spanos considers threatening players good business. that seems to be working out for us all.