The new agent for Shane Conlan is seeking a new contract from the Buffalo Bills that would pay the Pro Bowl linebacker more than $1 million per season.
Ralph Cindrich, a Pittsburgh attorney recently hired by Conlan, said he wanted a larger deal than the four-year, $4-million contract he negotiated for Miami Dolphins linebacker John Offerdahl earlier this year.
Although Offerdahl has made four Pro Bowls to Conlan's two, Cindrich said Conlan was "deserving of more compensation than Offerdahl," and that a number of talent evaluators supported that claim in comparing the inside linebackers.
"There are many impartial and objective observers in professional football who would say that the assets of Shane Conlan far exceed those of John Offerdahl," Cindrich said this week by telephone from Pittsburgh. "Some had argued that Shane and John were equal in the running game, but that Shane greatly excelled in the passing game. John Offerdahl is taken out on pass downs.
"John is an exceptionally fine linebacker; simply and purely one of the finest inside 'backers in the business. But Shane Conlan is one of the finest linebackers, period. He offers a whole dimension more than the vast majority of linebackers. He should be one of the top-paid linebackers in the business."
Conlan hired Cindrich to replace Philadelphia-based Brett Senior, who negotiated the contract the former Penn State standout signed with the Bills after they made him a first-round draft pick in 1987. Conlan is entering the option year of that agreement, which calls for a base salary of $302,500. He makes less than the Bills' other two defensive mainstays -- end Bruce Smith ($1.3 million) and outside linebacker Cornelius Bennett ($575,000) -- as well as part-time inside starter Scott Radecic ($338,000).
In February, Conlan planned to have Senior handle the talks for a new contract with the Bills. But shortly
thereafter, he changed his mind.
"It's nothing that Brett did. He did a hell of a job for me," Conlan said Tuesday. "I just thought it was time for a change. Brett's very competent, but Ralph is one of the best. So I told myself, 'You don't have too many of these contracts left. Don't sell yourself short.'
"It's just a matter of experience. Ralph's been around it more than Brett. He knows exactly what it's going to take. His guidance definitely will be good for me."
Cindrich, who has yet to meet with Bills General Manager Bill Polian, said he intends to make up for what he
considered a poor contract Conlan received in '87.
"There is no question that Shane was grossly underpaid the first time around," Cindrich said. "He's no longer a young, possibly timid individual coming out of college. He knows his value and his worth, and I believe Bill Polian knows that and wants to do right. It's always been said that Conlan would be rewarded if he performed, and he has performed exceedingly well. The time has come for the organization to do its part."
When told of Cindrich's pursuit of a larger deal than Offerdahl received, Polian said he was "not going to respond to an agent's baloney. I've heard it all before."
The GM has dealt with Cindrich on contracts for cornerback Nate Odomes, offensive tackle Will Wolford and center Kent Hull.
"What we ask and what we get are totally different," Conlan said. "I'd like to be around there ($1 million per season). I think the Bills want to give a fair deal, and I think that would be fair. But Bill may think a little differently. I'm sure we'll get it done and both sides will be happy."
Cindrich is known for long, difficult negotiations that cause players to miss training camp and beyond. In 1989, he held Offerdahl out for nearly half of the regular season before agreeing to a one-year, $500,000 contract that was followed by the $1-million-per-season deal. Another Cindrich client, New York Jets wide receiver Al Toon, missed most of the '89 preseason before settling a contract dispute.
"I consider that (holding out) extremely distasteful," Cindrich said. "But if it comes down to that, I don't think there's anyone in the business who's better at it than I am. I'm generally considered to be an extremely strong individual, and my clients either are or become very strong, too."
Does Conlan anticipate being absent during the Bills' training camp, which opens July 27 at Fredonia State College?
"I'm not looking at that at all," he said. "I'm looking to getting better and strive forward. I want to be in camp."