In the NFL draft in New York next week the Redskins have a No. 1 pick and the Cowboys don't. The Jets will have four selections out of the first 47. The fate of Billy Sims, the top choice in the nation, is in the hands of a Houston dentist, and San Francisco 49er Coach Bill Walsh, renowned as a molder of quarterbacks, might have to pass up the finest collegiate signal-caller since Bert Jones.
It's an iffy kind of draft. Trades, especially for San Francisco's choice, the second on the board, could throw everything out of whack. The top two linemen, Anthony Munoz of USC and Bruce Clark of Penn State, are coming off knee surgery. Insiders claim more clubs will draft "for need" this year. Still, the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers say they'll take the best available athlete—surprise! But somehow no one ever drafts that Soviet decathlon man.
You could get into arguments about the quality available. Browns Director of Player Personnel Tommy Prothro sees this year's draft as "a great one, better than last year's. It has depth." Other club officials are more guarded. "Once you get past the big stars, you'll see a lot of jumping around," says Dallas Vice-President for Personnel Development Gil Brandt.
Everyone concedes that the strongest position is cornerback, with at least six players worthy of going in the first round. Clark is the premier defensive lineman, but after that it's a scramble. For the first time in recent memory, three centers could go early. It's a bad year for linebackers, a good one for running backs. There's talent along the offensive line but no great depth. And no quarterback can be mentioned in the same breath with Brigham Young's Marc Wilson.
On talent, there's no question that the top choice in the draft, which belongs to the Detroit Lions, is Sims, the Oklahoma running back. The only knock on him is that he'll be 25 before he plays a down in the NFL.
"That could be a help, in terms of maturity," Lion Coach Monte Clark says. "The extra years don't matter, because they don't represent NFL wear and tear. The problem is signing him."
Enter Jerry Argovitz, 41, who has given up his Houston dental practice and become the newest star in the agents' league. Argovitz is Sims' agent, and so far his talks with Detroit General Manager Russ Thomas have been "totally unproductive," according to Thomas. "He's not realistic in his demands. I don't think he knows how NFL contracts are structured. I'd much prefer dealing with an experienced person."
For nine years Argovitz filled teeth for a living. In 1973 he stopped doing that and began handling doctors' and dentists' investments. He then became the financial adviser to a number of Oiler players.
Sims' original agent was L.A.'s boy wonder, Mike Trope. But a few months ago, when the particulars of the contract Trope had negotiated with Houston for Earl Campbell began to surface, Sims started having second thoughts. Campbell's $1.4 million, six-year package with the Oilers turned out to be mostly air. The bulk of it was deferred 40 years down the line, to be paid off in five-cent dollars, figuring on inflation. Trope had taken his cut from the original bundle. Campbell hired another agent and very quietly and smoothly upgraded his contract, reportedly for $3 million over six years, with no 40-year deferments.
Sims switched to Argovitz, whose first proposal looked like this: A $1.5 million signing bonus, deferred 20 years, with $500,000 to be loaned to Sims over 10 years, the loan being a common device to beat the tax bite. The $1.5 million figure is negotiable, Argovitz says. The guaranteed three-year contract would call for salaries of $120,000, $150,000 and $240,000. At the start of the third year the club would have an option to extend Sims' contract through a fourth, fifth and sixth year—at $500,000 per. Otherwise they could release him, but he would get paid for the third year. And there's something Argovitz calls the Sims Clause.
"This is just to let you know what kind of kid he is," Argovitz says. "He says he wants a large amount of his extra-performance bonus money put aside to be paid to his offensive linemen and blocking backs and let the coaches decide how to split it up. It could run upwards of $50,000 a year."
Argovitz says Thomas wasn't receptive to his package. Imagine. He says the Lions offered a $300,000 signing bonus, deferred over a 10-year period, and a three-year contract at $100,000 per, with a one-year option season at $110,000. Thomas says those figures are incorrect and adds that Argovitz "never showed me a proposal such as the one he described."
"I'll tell you," Argovitz says, "this is tougher than pulling teeth."
Monte Clark, who's trying to build a football team from the ashes of a 2-14 season, says he has no interest in trading his No. 1 pick, "unless someone comes up with a fabulous offer, and so far I haven't heard anything serious." So pencil in Sims for Detroit. Now it gets tough. San Francisco is seriously thinking of trading its pick, which everybody assumes would mean the brilliant 6'5" Wilson. But Walsh needs numbers, not one superstar. He has only eight draft choices this year. He needs more, lots more. So far no one's offering enough. Buffalo is interested in swapping picks—to draft not Wilson but Junior Miller, the Nebraska tight end. And would Buffalo be interested in throwing in its second-round selection, the first of the round? No, the Bills would not.
"We'll have to wait until the very last moment to see what we'll do," Walsh says. "So far we've had about four solid offers, but we feel that the closer to the actual choice we come, the better the offers are going to be."
But Walsh could wind up taking Wilson himself. Look at it this way: he has a reputation as the No. 1 developer of young quarterbacks, right? Well, how would it look if he lets Wilson go and the kid becomes an alltimer? The 49ers had the No. 3 pass offense in the NFL last year behind Steve DeBerg—a tribute to both DeBerg and his coach. And Joe Montana is still a prospect, but quarterback is the one position where it makes sense to stockpile. It's a gamble, but when you're coming off 2-14, that's what you have to consider. So let's make Wilson the No. 2 choice in the draft.
Next up, Cincinnati. Everyone concedes that Munoz is the best offensive lineman. In games he's been good, but not great. It's on the practice field that the scouts' eyes have popped. "He's 6'5¼" and 285 pounds, and he just obliterates people," one of them says. "He's got fantastic feet. Put him in the right pro offense and he'll be a star for 10 years."
If his knees hold up. He has had three operations. The Bengals may be a little leery about that. Some people say they're smoke-screening, as they did last year with Tight End Kellen Winslow, and they'll really go for Brad Budde, the USC guard. Or Lam Jones, the Texas flanker. O.K., we're naive. We'll believe the Bengals and give them Munoz.
Clark, the No. 1 defensive tackle, goes to the Packers as the prospective middle guard in their upcoming 3-4 defense. He's another postoperative knee case, but the Penn State doctor has pronounced him completely fit, and Clark says the injury wasn't that bad.
The Colts, picking fifth, like Texas A&M sprinter Curtis Dickey either as a halfback or a wide receiver. They need help for Bert Jones. And 15 seconds after the Colts announce their pick, St. Louis will grab Junior Miller. Atlanta is desperate for a cornerback. The choice will be between Washington's Mark Haynes and Tennessee's Roland James. The two are an eyelash apart, and Haynes wins. The Giants also need a cornerback, and James would do nicely. But Coach Ray Perkins says, "You mean you wouldn't take the No. 1 wide receiver in the country?" And so Johnny (Lam) Jones is on his way to New Jersey.
Having traded away Running Back Chuck Foreman and Steve Riley, a tackle, the Vikings might go for a runner or Budde. On the other hand, their secondary is ancient, so let's give them James as a cornerback. If the Bills don't upgrade their pick to get Miller, they'll go for a center, and there N.C. State's Jim Richter is the class.
The Chiefs will be looking at the second-best wide receiver (Art Monk of Syracuse) and two quality offensive linemen, Budde and Colorado's Stan Brock. Their sense of history is too great to let Budde slip by, and they'll immediately make plans for a Father & Son Day featuring Brad and his dad, Ed, an alltime K.C. guard.
The Saints will go for Alcorn State Cornerback Roynell Young, whom most scouts rate as a great one-on-one cover man. The Jets liked Notre Dame's Vagas Ferguson as the No. 2 running back after Sims in the draft all along, and they'll grab him. New England takes the first of the remaining mob of defensive linemen, Jacob Green, an undersized (6'2½", 235 pounds) end from Texas A&M but a fierce pass rusher.
We're now on the downhill side of Round 1. Cleveland will use its No. 15 pick for Michigan's Curtis Greer, rated among the top four defensive linemen by practically all the scouts. Next up, the Raiders, with a desperate need for a linebacker. But there's a USC running back out there in the weeds (Al Davis loves those Trojans), the Heisman winner, Charley White. Remember him? The Raiders do. They'll nail him.
Seattle takes Clemson Defensive End Jim Stuckey, and Washington comes up with a sleeper—Matt Millen, the defensive tackle from Penn State. He's only 6'1" and he's got a bad back, but he's the Redskin type all the way. An absolutely ferocious competitor.
The Bears can't believe no linebacker has been taken, so they grab Otis Wilson from Louisville, and with their second first-round pick the Jets, who really wanted a pass rusher, go for another back—a big one this time, Earl Cooper from Rice.
Miami's Don Shula is looking for a cornerback or a center, but he's surprised that Stan Brock, the Colorado tackle, is still there, and he takes him. USC's linebackers tempt Tampa Bay's John McKay, but the Bucs need receivers, and Syracuse's Monk is a player.
The Eagles, oy, do they have problems. No backup quarterback, a 35-year-old cornerback, a 36-year-old guard. Which to solve? Going strictly by quality, they'll select the Wisconsin guard, Ray Snell. Baltimore will spend its second pick of the day for still more receiving help, Ralph Clayton of Michigan. New England's second shot will bring in Penn State Tackle Irv Pankey. Late scouting reports on Michigan Tight End Doug Marsh have upgraded his numbers to read 6'2‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö‚à´", 238 and a 4.61 40, so he'll be Green Bay's second first-round pick.
The Rams would like fortification for that injured mob of defensive backs, but Jackson State Running Back Perry Harrington is a more logical choice now that Lawrence McCutcheon has been traded to Denver and John Cappelletti to San Diego.
Finally the Steelers. The guess is that somehow they'll trade for a higher pick, but if they don't, they'll note the age along their defensive line and choose Doug Martin of Washington.
The big explosion could come if the Steelers manage to trade for the 49ers' pick and wind up with Wilson. That would tell you two things: that they're seriously considering Terry Bradshaw's retirement a year or two down the road, and that they're making no plans to relinquish the stranglehold they've held on the NFL since the mid-'70s. Thus are dynasties preserved.
Sims works out on a weight machine at O.U.
Ex-dentist Argovitz practices putting the bite on Detroit.
Wilson and son: Goodby BYU, hello 49ers?
Big boys from Troy: USC linemen Budde (left) and Munoz.