Two-part question: How much do we really know about veteran agent Marvin Demoff, who represents Steelers safety Troy Polamalu? Considering his track record, how much do we want to know?
Enough to know that anything is possible with Demoff -- from a speedy contract resolution between Polamalu and the Steelers, to a prolonged contract stalemate, and all the possibilites in between.
In other words, expect the unexpected.
Demoff is an old-school negotiator based in Los Angeles who has a history with the Steelers, although not necessarily a great one.
He's old enough to have represented former Steelers cornerback Rod Woodson, who was the team's first-round draft pick in 1987. Woodson held out, missed his first NFL training camp and didn't sign until October.
On the other hand, Polamalu, the Steelers' first-round pick in 2003, didn't hold out, signed in July and participated in his first NFL training camp.
Demoff can be accommodating or unyielding. It all depends on whom he represents and the needs of that particular client.
Polamalu's original contract ends following the 2007 season. The Steelers don't have to do a thing. They can permit him to play out his deal and then slap a franchise tag on him for the next two seasons if he doesn't agree to their terms.
That wouldn't be a particularly nice way of doing business with one of the Steelers' best and most popular players, but it would be the price of doing business with a smaller-market team.
Demoff is trying to hammer out a deal for Polamalu this offseason, because the Steelers don't negotiate in season. Considering Polamalu has a year remaining on his original deal, what takes place between now and the Sept. 9 opener at Cleveland could be revealing.
Traditionally, the Steelers prefer to re-sign their core players the year before their contract ends.
Not signing Polamalu this offseason doesn't mean a new deal won't get done. But it would send the wrong message to players and fans.
Given that linebacker Joey Porter was released after not securing the contract he wanted, and given that unhappy Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca has already promised to leave when his contract runs out after next season, the Steelers need to re-sign Polamalu as a sign of good faith.
That's where Demoff, who has scaled back his workload, enters the picture. He needs a big score, just as Polamalu does.
After representing Hall of Famers Dan Marino and John Elway, Demoff has suffered some significant losses in recent years. High-profile clients such as running backs Larry Johnson and Corey Dillon, defensive end Julius Peppers and quarterback Chris Simmns cut their ties with Demoff. That leaves Polamalu, tackle Jonathan Ogden and linebackers Donnie Edwards and Junior Seau among Demoff's remaining big-name clients.
So far, Polamalu is adopting a low-key, goodwill approach in negotiations. That could change if Demoff, who's already shown the Steelers he can drive a hard bargain, is unable to secure Ed Reed type of money for Polamalu.
Reed, the Baltimore Ravens safety, signed a six-year contract in 2006 featuring a reported $15 million guaranteed -- the new standard for elite safties.
How successful Demoff is in negotiating a Reed-like contract for Polamalu could likely foretell which Demoff the Steelers encounter in the coming days:
The Demoff who negotiated Polamalu's rookie deal. Or the Demoff who represented Woodson when he held out 20 years ago.
By John Harris
Thursday, June 28, 2007