The Arizona Cardinals' top negotiator doesn't buy the idea that holdout Andre Wadsworth wants to sit out this season, finish his master's degree and reenter the draft next year.
"All players should get their degree," Bob Ferguson, the team's vice president of player personnel, said Tuesday. "He said he enrolled. But, you know, there are correspondence courses. If he's going back to school, God bless him. I think it's an honorable thing."
The tongue-in-cheek response came a day after Wadsworth, the No. 3 pick in the April draft, told a Phoenix radio station he signed up for the fall semester at Florida State to complete his master's degree in business administration. He told station KGME there was a 50-50 chance he'd sit out the season.
Ferguson also said there had been no recent movement in talks with Eugene Parker, Wadsworth's agent. Parker did not return a telephone call to his office on Tuesday.
Wadsworth personally called the Cardinals last week to reject a $13.37 million offer that included an $8.1 million signing bonus. The offer was less than the $14.5 million that Heisman Trophy-winning cornerback Charles Woodson, the No. 4 pick, received from Oakland, although the bonus was $100,000 more.
Wadsworth wants a bonus of at least $10 million and an average of $4 million to $6 million a year, which would put him in the range of quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf, the 1-2 picks.
But money alone is not the sticking point.
Indianapolis gave Manning both voidable years and escalator clauses - incentives that could inflate his income in a six-year package from $14.5 million to $47.7 millionHe received an $11.6 million bonus.
Leaf got a $11.25 million bonus as part of a $31.25 million, five-year contract with San Diego.
The Cardinals have never given escalators or voidable years, which allow a rookie to void later years in a deal and, in effect, receive another bonus for signing all over again. Parker and Wadsworth haven't budged from asking for them.
"I'm a person set in my convictions," Wadsworth told The Tribune, a newspaper serving suburban Phoenix. "Either do this, or it won't happen."
But coach Vince Tobin doubted the contract rhetoric would keep Wadsworth, regarded by many as the best defensive end to enter the NFL since Bruce Smith of Buffalo, out of the season opener Sept. 6 at Dallas.
"Andre's got to do what Andre thinks is best, and I don't see it as a stumbling block to the final resolution," Tobin said. "But he's no different than anyone else -- he's got to explore all of his options just as we do."
Wadsworth needs one semester for his MBA and has one semester left on his football scholarship at Florida State, but no eligibility. He said if he attended classes, he would work as a graduate assistant to Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden.
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