The numbers behind Nate Behar’s holdout with the Esks

Canadian receiver Nate Behar continues to be at the centre of a contract standoff with Edmonton.

The Eskimos selected Behar fifth overall in the 2017 CFL draft and he remains the lone top two round pick unsigned. Furthermore, four of the top five picks have signed contracts with the respective teams that drafted them: defensive lineman Faith Ekakitie, linebacker Cameron Judge, receiver Danny Vandervoort and defensive lineman Connor McGough. All are either in camp or in Judge’s case ready to attend when the semester finishes at UCLA.

Notably, missing from the top five draft picks who have put pen to paper: Behar. For reference, let’s look at what the first four selections received in first year and total “guaranteed money” on their first pro pacts.

Taken  Name Salary Term Total Team
N0. 1 Faith Ekakitie $88,000 2+1 $290,000 Bombers
No. 2 Cameron Judge $82,500 2+1  $275,000 Riders
No. 3 Danny Vandervoort $75,000 2+1 $247,000 Lions
No. 4 Connor McGough $77,000 2+1 $245,000 Ticats
No. 5 Nate Behar Eskimos

Sources say the Eskimos made Behar a take it or leave it offer: $77,000 in year one “guaranteed money” with exactly the same total cash over three seasons as Vandervoort who was picked No. 3 overall. However, over the last few weeks, Edmonton general manager Brock Sunderland reduced the offer by at least $20,000 as days passed without an agreement.

Sources within the Eskimos organization have made it known that because the team has depth at national receiver (Chris Getzlaf, Cory Watson, Shamawd Chambers, Natey Adjei, Anthony Barrett and freshly signed Scott MacDonnell) Behar’s camp is negotiating from a position of weakness.

The take it or leave it offer could be considered fair within the 2017 draft pick market, but that offer was actually less in guaranteed money and signing bonus than what offensive lineman Danny Groulx signed for after Edmonton selected the Laval product seventh overall in 2015. Groulx, like Behar, is a client of agent Jonathon Hardaway who has been known as a tenacious negotiator who will hold firm on his side. He won’t want to accept a 2+1 contract for less than what a player drafted two years ago and two slots lower received.

Over recent years, Hardaway has had clients hold out from the start of training camp, No. 1 overall pick, offensive lineman Josiah St. John in 2016 and versatile defender Chris Ackie in 2015. That said, after Edmonton drafted receiver Devon Bailey sixth overall in 2014, the rangy pass catcher was in camp on time. Same for the seventh pick, Groulx in 2015.

There has been little to no communication between the Eskimos and Behar’s side for at least a few weeks. It’s clear Edmonton feels their initial offer was fair, and seemingly in comparison to the other top picks it looks that way, but Behar and his agent view it differently.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.