RB Ryan Grant isn't at the voluntary practices going on this week because he still hasn't signed a contract for 2008. There aren't a lot of undrafted, young guys playing at a Pro Bowl level, or near Pro Bowl level, so it's hard to know what to expect in this situation. Plus he hasn't started for a full season yet, so it's hard to place him among the top running backs in the league. Still it would be a bargain if he signed the $370,000 contract which is all the Packers have to pay him in 2008.
If this situation happened earlier in GM Ted Thompson's career as GM, then it would be a problem. When WR Javon Walker demanded a new contact, it got ugly and eventually led to his trade to Denver which netted a draft choice in return, and the Packers have backup OL Daryn Colledge to show for the Walker.
Since then Thompson has admitted taking a different approach to disgruntled players. CB Al Harris became unhappy with his contract after DE Aaron Kampman signed his big four year contract a couple of seasons ago, and Thompson quietly reworked Harris' contract to make his base salary more in line with a player of his caliber. He did the same thing with RT Mark Tauscher last year.
Usually exclusive-rights free agents know they have no bargaining power, and quickly sign the contract offered. One exception was undrafted TE Antonio Gates who didn't want to sign his exclusive-rights contract offer of $380,000 after his 2004 Pro Bowl season. He sat out the entire preseason and missed the first game of the 2005 season which arguably was the reason they missed the playoffs that year. That situation ended when he received a fat six year contract that paid him like one of the top tight ends in football, which he clearly was.
Does Grant deserve a top dollar contract like Gates too? I'm in awe of Grant's ability to see the field and find the open running lanes, but I would like to see him do it two seasons in a row before he gets a big pay day. I'm guessing his agent wants RB Michael Turner's six year, $34.5 million contract for Grant. Turner has 228 career carries with a 5.5 yards/carry career average, while Grant has 188 career carries with a 5.1 yards/carry career average. I would prefer Grant over Turner because Grant is a good receiver who catches everything thrown his way while Turner has a whopping 11 career catches in four NFL seasons. The big difference is that Turner was an unrestricted free agent, while Grant can only negotiate with the Packers. I doubt either Thompson or Grant will let this interfere with training camp or the regular season, but it will be interesting to see where they end up.