The Canadian Football League has rejected the Ottawa Renegades' contract proposal to linebacker Kyries Hebert, sending the team back to the drawing board.
The Renegades and Hebert agreed last week on a five-year deal that could be worth a total of $1 million, and the first two years of the deal, worth $300,000, were guaranteed. That sent rival CFL clubs into a frenzy and prompted action by commissioner Tom Wright, who told Renegades president Lonie Glieberman not to register the deal with the league office during executives' meetings in Las Vegas last week.
The league awaits official paperwork from the Renegades, which could be filed this week, CFL director of communications Alexis Redmond said.
Reached yesterday in northern Michigan, where he runs a ski resort, Glieberman said little about the controversy other than offering optimism that Hebert, who tied for the CFL lead in special-teams tackles in 2005, would soon be in the fold. He did not, however, pledge to revoke the guaranteed portions of Hebert's deal.
"We're working with the league and with Kyries and we expect to have everything resolved," he said. "We don't expect any problems, and we expect Kyries will be a Renegade for the next five years."
Guaranteed money is tantamount to the Bogeyman for football teams. None of the three professional leagues in North America routinely offer such pledges, as opposed to Major League Baseball or the National Hockey League, because it is thought to remove motivation for the individual player and, most importantly, because teams want to be able to cut players at any time without consideration of the financial consequences.
In Hebert's case, Wright invoked a CFL rule that allows the commissioner to reject a contract if he believes it's bad for the league. There was some consideration that, if the Renegades went belly-up, the league and its remaining teams would be on the hook for the guaranteed portion of Hebert's contract.
Also, rival teams feel the deal would be precedent-setting, leading more accomplished players to demand guaranteed money when the free-agency period starts in mid-February.
"I feel it's something more players will be looking for and I think that's what the league had a problem with," Hebert said yesterday from Houston. "They didn't want to open the floodgates."
Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown predicted exactly that. In his weekly column for the Winnipeg Free Press, Brown wrote: "What really makes your head spin and catches the interest of every single viable free agent in Canada, though, is the fact that (Hebert's) first two years are guaranteed. ... Guaranteed contracts are the Shangri-la to all footballers."
Hebert, 25, could make the deal worth $1 million if he reaches every incentive bonus.
In 2005, he emerged as an important cog in the Renegades defence and one of the CFL's top special-teams players. The big-money pact and guarantees were designed to fend off as many as 10 NFL suitors