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Old 04-29-2005, 06:54 AM  
BigRedChief BigRedChief is offline
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Thum: How the Surtain trade happened.

From the Chiefs Coalition site and GA Chief KU.

There’s a common perception of Carl Peterson that he lives his life in the restaurants and bistros of the Country Club Plaza, winging his way from one location to another, wine glass and entourage in hand, dispensing Chiefs business along the way.

OK, so the Chiefs president and general manager has had a dinner or two, or a thousand in the Plaza, maybe even a glass of wine or three over the years. It’s true. He lives there, that’s his neighborhood.

But understand this: Chiefs business gets done everywhere and for evidence of that there’s no better example than the three-month chase of cornerback Patrick Surtain. It culminated a week ago when the Chiefs were able to workout a deal with Miami and a deal with Surtain. The two-time Pro Bowl cornerback now wears a red and gold uniform.
So, did this deal get done in posh restaurants and bistros? Not hardly. How about two of the more important moments in this long story happened at a Steak & Shake in Indianapolis and a Denny’s in Charlotte. Filet mignon and cabernet sauvignon? How about burger and fries and an order of eggs over easy, hash browns and sweet tea.

The whole Surtain saga is the story of Peterson and executive VP/assistant GM Denny Thum doing what they do best: patiently working through the process, applying subtle pressure here, holding somebody’s hand there, until a workable deal was finalized and Surtain was part of the defensive scenery at Arrowhead Stadium.

It all began in January, when the Chiefs put together their off-season wish list. Surtain’s name was on that list, even though he was not a free agent.

“He was a guy in the final year of his contract and he was the top guy on their salary cap at $8 million,” said Thum. “They had just re-done a deal with Sam Madison and a new coach was coming in. It just seemed likely that he was going to be available in some fashion, whether as a cap cut or a trade.”

The Chiefs did not have to wait to find out if their assumption was correct. Right around the Super Bowl, they spoke with Dolphins GM Rick Spielman, who informed them that a deal for Surtain was possible. But Miami set the ground rules: teams interested in Surtain could not speak directly with the player, he could not travel for meetings, workouts or physicals and the Dolphins wanted at least a second-round draft choice in exchange.

After the Super Bowl, Thum had his first conversation with Surtain’s agent, Gary Uberstine.

“I was fishing for information from him, on what he knew of the Dolphins intentions and whether they were serious about trading him, or just trying to establish his value,” said Thum. “He told me they were talking trade for Surtain. I asked him if he was willing to negotiate a long-term deal. He was and that’s where we started.”

The Chiefs choked on Uberstine’s first proposals, which called for money well out of the salary cap ballpark in Kansas City. Nothing unusual there; the agent’s job is to ask for the sun and settle for the moon and stars.

Here’s where Steak & Shake comes in. At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in late February, Peterson and Thum were walking back to their hotel from the RCA Dome when Thum’s cell phone rang. It was Uberstine, who was across the street, sitting with Spielman in a Steak & Shake. “He saw us walking down the street and asked us to stop by,” said Thum.

It was during this conversation that the Chiefs learned there would be no contract extension between the Dolphins and Surtain. There was no doubt he was available for the right price.

“We ended up talking several times that week with Gary and his partner Michael Hoffman,” said Thum. “That’s when Gary says to me, ‘Hey I hear you are interested in a cornerback, linebacker and safety and my guy Sammy Knight is going to be available’,” Thum said. “We were talking with Todd France about Kendrell Bell at the combine as well. I remember telling Gary that anything we did had to be cap friendly, because of our cap situation and because we wanted to get the linebacker and safety too.

“So the next day, he gives me two proposals, one for Sammy that was seriously bad and another for Patrick that was outrageous. Both fit our cap numbers for the next two years, so he had done what I asked, but we couldn’t do those deals.”

Knight eventually got signed on March 10, after Bell had also agreed to terms. Peterson and Thum looked at their cap and knew they could sign a cornerback, but only if that player’s agent was willing to be creative and limit the cap hit in 2005 and 2006.

Talks between all parties continued through March. The Chiefs had Ty Law in for a visit and that drew the attention not of Uberstine, but the Dolphins. Two or three other teams were initially interested in Surtain, but they were scared off by the demands of both player and the team.
The Chiefs and Dolphins talked several times during the league’s annual spring meeting in late March, this year held on the island of Maui. “On the last day I sat by the pool with Rick, we had a beverage and suddenly he was talking about wanting more than a second-round pick, that Nick (Saban) didn’t think that was enough,” Thum said. “I wasn’t sure where it was all headed then.”

On April 1, the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported that the Chiefs and Surtain had an agreement on a contract. A day later, the Kansas City Star reported the same. Neither paper named the source of their information. Media outlets across the city and around the country reported it as fact.

Only one problem: it wasn’t true. Not even close.
“In fact at that time, I was pessimistic we were going to be able to get a contract done,” said Thum. “We weren’t making any progress and Gary was talking about waiting until next year when Surtain would be one of the two top free agent cornerbacks available, along with Charles Woodson, and he could get a huge deal. There was no movement towards a deal, let alone an agreement.”

Neither newspaper has ever retracted its story, reported they were in error or acknowledged the fact the Chiefs said there was no agreement.
Talks continued with Uberstine and with the Dolphins. “I was talking with Rick Spielman and Carl was talking with Nick Saban,” said Thum. “Rick and I spent almost an entire Saturday afternoon going through various draft choice scenarios. They kept insisting on the second-round pick and we didn’t want to do that. We kept trying to come up with combinations this year, or even next that would give them what they wanted.
“We even looked into making a trade with another team to get a third round pick that we could then deal that to Miami (the Chiefs could not trade their third round pick because it was a compensatory choice given them by the league for losing free agent tackle John Tait.)”

As the Chiefs got heavy into their draft preparation, one thing became apparent. “It didn’t look like we were going to get a chance at the top three corners this year,” said Thum. “They were going to be off the board before our turn came.”

That sped up the talks with Uberstine, because getting the deal done with Surtain was the first step. A week before the draft, there were still major hurdles to overcome. Then on Wednesday night last week, things started falling into place. There were no-stop phone calls dissecting contract language, which meant the financials were pretty much in place. Thursday found Peterson in Charlotte for a memorial service for former Stars-Saints-Panthers linebacker Sam Mills.

That’s where Denny’s comes in.
“Carl was sitting in a Denny’s there and I was here (Arrowhead) and we were going over details of the contract, and he was writing them down on a napkin, a placemat, anything he could find. Then his cell phone battery died and he had to borrow somebody else’s. That one eventually died too.”

With Peterson’s return Thursday evening, the deal was in place. The Dolphins were called and the trade was agreed on: a second to the Dolphins and the teams would swap positions in the fifth round. Surtain was scheduled to fly to Kansas City the next day for a physical, even as the two sides were working on the final contract language.
“This was not an ordinary deal, because we weren’t trading for his old Miami contract,” said Thum. “This was an entirely new deal, but it had to go through the Dolphins to get done.”

So Saturday morning, just before he met the Kansas City media for the first time, Surtain signed dozens of documents which were then faxed to the Dolphins, who then had to submit them to the NFL. Only then were the trade and his new contract officially completed.
And more than three months after it started, he was a member of the Chiefs.

“There were times when it never seemed like it would happen,” said Thum. “A lot of people put time and effort into this, but it doesn’t always pay off. We kept at it, we kept our patience and in the end, we got the guy we wanted.”

So will they all eventually get together and celebrate one of the more lengthy pursuits of a player in Chiefs history? Might there be nice dinner at one of those fancy Plaza joints in the future?

“Nah, I think Steak & Shake is where we should go,” Thum said.
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Old 04-29-2005, 07:04 AM   #2
dirk digler dirk digler is offline
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Great article thanks BigRedChief!
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Old 04-29-2005, 07:10 AM   #3
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That was great .... I kinda got a rush just reading it.



Dammit Carl I wanna hate you but this makes it hard.






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Old 04-29-2005, 07:11 AM   #4
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I dont have the patience for that kind of job...wow.
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Old 04-29-2005, 07:11 AM   #5
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This article is by Gretz on KCChiefs.com
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Old 04-29-2005, 07:11 AM   #6
dirk digler dirk digler is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KCTitus
I dont have the patience for that kind of job...wow.
Me either
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Old 04-29-2005, 07:22 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by BigRedChief
From the Chiefs Coalition site and GA Chief KU.

“Nah, I think Steak & Shake is where we should go,” Thum said.

They are finally building a Steak N Shake in Fayetteville...I can't wait!
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Old 04-29-2005, 07:33 AM   #8
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I dont have the patience for that kind of job...wow.
Same here.
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Old 04-29-2005, 07:34 AM   #9
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A Very cool article, it really gives some insight into the inner workings of one of these deals. I find it odd that what those papers reported just happened to be pretty close to what the actual contract was.

Odviously there is a lot more to the story that they can not say, or maybe thats just the conspiracy theorist in me.
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Old 04-29-2005, 07:40 AM   #10
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Good article but I find this part disturbing.

Quote:
On April 1, the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported that the Chiefs and Surtain had an agreement on a contract. A day later, the Kansas City Star reported the same. Neither paper named the source of their information. Media outlets across the city and around the country reported it as fact.

Only one problem: it wasn’t true. Not even close.
“In fact at that time, I was pessimistic we were going to be able to get a contract done,” said Thum. “We weren’t making any progress and Gary was talking about waiting until next year when Surtain would be one of the two top free agent cornerbacks available, along with Charles Woodson, and he could get a huge deal. There was no movement towards a deal, let alone an agreement.”

Neither newspaper has ever retracted its story, reported they were in error or acknowledged the fact the Chiefs said there was no agreement.
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Old 04-29-2005, 07:59 AM   #11
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Man, it's just a business. Each day I deal with trucking companies who want more money than you can / I can afford to pay. There is always a starting point and an ending point to all deals, you have to negotiate to a happy medium.

Like any business, some deals make it and some do not.
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Old 04-29-2005, 08:11 AM   #12
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Quote:
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This article is by Gretz on KCChiefs.com
WTF Gretz actually wrote something interesting? Whats next? ENDelt260 goes on the wagon?
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Old 04-29-2005, 08:29 AM   #13
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This article is by Gretz on KCChiefs.com
Which means the only part of it that isn't bullshit is, "the Chiefs signed Surtain".
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Old 04-29-2005, 08:37 AM   #14
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Years ago Gretz wrote a book about the Chiefs that contained a long story about signing Joe Montana. IIRC there were a lot of late night meetings where contract terms were drafted out on drink napkins.
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Old 04-29-2005, 09:23 AM   #15
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Kudos to Gretz for a great article. Except for the obligatory criticism of the newspapers.
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