Per Mike Florio, Texans star running back Steve Slaton fired his old agents Eric Metz and Ethan Lock and has hired Harold Lewis of National Sports Agency. Slaton is playing for a meager four year 2.37 million dollar contract, and this firing/hiring might be a sign of upcoming jockeying for a new contract.
Normally I am against rewarding players that have only performed in their rookie year because they have a long way to go until they prove they can sustain a high level of play over a few years. Having said that though, I am more than OK paying Stevie Wonder because he was such an integral part of the offense last year that even if he slightly regressed he would still be valuable to the team. There's never any guarantee, but I highly doubt that Slaton will be a flash in the pan player.
Here's the rub though. If Slaton tries to back Rick Smith and the Texans into a corner before this season we might be in trouble. The Texans are embarrassingly bare at RB behind Slaton so we can therefore not afford to call his bluff in a holdout. At the same time though, you can't pay him before Owen Daniels and especially DeMeco Ryans (I left Dunta Robinson off the list on purpose) because that will aggravate those negotiations heavily, maybe even past the point of no return.
The best course of action for the Texans right now is to ensure Slaton that he will be taken care of before the end of the 2009 season. The danger there is that you might have to pay him more if he continues to play at such a high level, but he is worth the risk and the money. You'd be locking up a franchise RB in his second year, which would spare you a great deal of heart ache in a few years.
This is definitely a situation worth keeping an eye on, and it will require a lot of delicacy and finesse on Rick Smith's part. Hopefully Slaton will tow the party line until the season starts, but he has a great deal of leverage on his side, and will continue to until the Texans sign a starting caliber running back, which very well may not happen before the season starts. In that respect, he has more leverage than certainly Dunta and OD, who both had players at their positions drafted this year. And someone could attempt the argument that the LB corps is deep enough to survive without DeMeco, though I think that is lunacy.
If I was Rick Smith I would make sure that DeMeco gets paid before the season, OD and Steve get taken care of early in the season and Dunta doesn't get anything until he proves he is worth it. What about you BRB?