Cornerback hires Rosenhaus to 'resolve differences'
Mike McKenzie's departure remains a longshot, but the Green Bay Packers have granted the disgruntled cornerback permission to negotiate with other teams. He has retained agent Drew Rosenhaus in an attempt to facilitate a trade.
The hiring of Rosenhaus was completed Monday. Rosenhaus becomes the fifth different agent that McKenzie has retained since entering the league in 1999.
Rosenhaus spoke with Packers officials Tuesday and the team was preparing to fax him permission, in writing, to shop his newest client. Such permission, however, rarely results in a trade and is typically more cosmetic than consequential.
"Basically, Mike hired me to resolve the differences," Rosenhaus said. "So we have put together a list of teams that we feel need a veteran cornerback of Mike's abilities and we will begin contacting them. Everyone is aware of what Mike would like to see happen. As usual, we'll be very proactive and try to settle this to everyone's satisfaction."
McKenzie, 28, split from former agent Brian Parker about three weeks ago.
But even for the ever-resourceful Rosenhaus, who will travel to Jacksonville early next week to pitch McKenzie to owners and general managers assembled for a two-day NFL meeting there, satisfying the cornerback's demands for a change of scenery could prove a daunting task.
For openers, the Packers possess great leverage, with McKenzie only two seasons into the five-year contract extension he signed in 2001. Even if McKenzie and Rosenhaus are able to locate a suitor, Green Bay is likely to seek a first-round draft choice in exchange for the former University of Memphis star. While McKenzie is a proven commodity, a solid cover man despite less-than-blazing speed, many teams addressed their cornerback needs already this offseason through free agency and the draft and will be reluctant to part with a high-round draft choice.
In fact, it was the spending spree on unrestricted veteran cornerbacks at the outset of free agency in March that, in part, further outdated McKenzie's current contract. The contract that McKenzie signed after his first three years in the league is worth $17.1 million, and it included a $3.5 million signing bonus, numbers dwarfed by more recent deals.
Reflecting his displeasure, McKenzie has been a no-show for all of the various offseason programs to date, and he was fined an unspecified amount by coach Mike Sherman for skipping a mandatory three-day minicamp. McKenzie has also essentially forfeited an offseason workout bonus of $200,000.
His base salary for 2004 is set at $2.75 million and McKenzie has a salary cap charge of $4.087 million. McKenzie has threatened to retire if his trade request isn't met but, if he follows through with that unlikely action, Green Bay almost certainly will try to recover at least a portion of his signing bonus.
The Packers extended trade feelers before the draft, but it is believed those generated little interest. Green Bay wisely protected itself against a possible training camp boycott by using its first two picks in this year's draft on cornerbacks, choosing Ahmad Carroll of Arkansas in the first round, and then taking Joey Thomas of Montana State in the third.
A third-round pick in the 1999 draft, McKenzie has been a starter at left cornerback since his rookie year, with double-digit starts in all but one of his five seasons. He started 14 games last season and finished with 58 tackles, four interceptions and 20 passes defensed. For his career, he has 15 interceptions, 92 passes defensed and 219 tackles, appearing in 69 games and starting 67 of them.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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