Unless the Rams come up with a better offer in a hurry, holdout wide receiver Henry Ellard will sit out the 1986 season, his agent said Monday.
Mike Blatt, who represents Ellard, met with Ram management in Stockton in what was supposed to be the first meaningful discussion in months between the two parties.
Blatt said he was told that the Rams were coming to Stockton with a new contract offer, but arrived instead with the same old proposal: a four-year deal worth $1.2 million.
To which Blatt replied: "Are you kidding?"
Blatt met with John Shaw, the Ram vice president of finance, and Jay Zygmunt, the team general counsel.
Blatt said Shaw told him that Ellard was not a great impact player and ranked him only fifth on the Rams in importance behind running back Eric Dickerson, quarterback Steve Bartkowski, cornerback LeRoy Irvin and linebacker Jim Collins.
Ellard was the Rams' leading receiver with 54 catches, the most by a Ram receiver in 20 years.
Ellard also was the NFC's leading punt returner in 1985.
Last year, in his fourth season out of Fresno State, Ellard drew a salary of $145,000.
Now entering the 32nd day of his holdout, he is looking for a four-year deal worth about $500,000 a season.
But Blatt said Monday that he would settle for a one- or two-year contract in the neighborhood of $400,000.
But he said the Rams wouldn't budge on their original offer.
Shaw, who has a growing reputation as a tight-fisted, bottom-line negotiator, could not be reached for comment at the Rams' offices in Los Angeles.
But then, he has never commented publicly on matters concerning player negotiations.
Blatt said Shaw told him that the Rams had imposed a deadline of 1 p.m. Tuesday for Ellard to respond to the offer, after which his value to the team would decrease considerably.
Blatt then suggested a trade but he said Shaw discounted the idea.
"It was take it or leave it," Blatt said. "And if you take it, you can't work for anyone else."
Though Ellard is a free agent, Blatt said no NFL teams would dare steal Ellard away from the Rams at this point, for fear of upsetting their negotiation ploys in the future.
As Blatt sees it, Ellard would sit out this season and then sign with another team next year for a contract more deserving, say three years at $1.5 million. The Rams would have right of first refusal, but he would expect them to refuse, freeing Ellard to go.
Under the current collective bargaining agreement, the Rams would also have to be compensated for losing Ellard.
"He has all the leverage," Blatt said of Shaw. "My only leverage is withholding services."
Blatt was upset that Shaw would talk down Ellard for purposes of negotiation.
"He said they (the Rams) already had two great wide receivers (Ron Brown and Bobby Duckworth) with more speed and talent," Blatt said.
The day ended with Blatt driving Shaw and Zygmunt back to the airport.
And all Blatt had to show for it was a $20 receipt for lunch.
He picked up the tab.