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Sunday, September 27, 2009
Holding out from Cousineau to Crabtree



Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


Buffalo Bills fans can't be too disappointed with how it all eventually worked out. At the time, however, the failure to sign No. 1 overall draft pick Tom Cousineau was a maddening experience.

ESPN.com's Elizabeth Merrill recently revisited the ordeal with Cousineau for an in-depth feature story on the San Francisco 49ers' inability to sign rookie receiver Michael Crabtree.

And then there was Tom Cousineau, the No. 1 overall pick of the 1979 draft who never played a down for the Bills. Cousineau, initially miffed by what he perceived as shoddy treatment by Buffalo, was ultimately lured away by bigger money in the CFL. He played in Canada for three years, made twice as much as he would have in the NFL, and one day out of the blue received a six-figure bonus from a generous front-office person to help cure his homesickness.

Cousineau eventually found his way back to the NFL, and had a good career. But to this day, he still has regrets. His heart told him to play in Buffalo, to take what the Bills offered. His head said to go where the money took him.

"Negotiating protocol and all that goes with that ... it was so foreign to me," Cousineau says. "You have to believe in people. I thought I'd made a good choice with [agent] Jimmy Walsh, and I believe that to this day. He was looking out for my best interests.

"Who out there, all things being equal, would prefer to work for less money than more money? Who makes that choice?"

The Bills eventually signed Cousineau in 1982 and traded him to the Cleveland Browns for first-round draft choices that year and the next. The Bills drafted Jim Kelly with the 1983 pick they acquired.

Of course, Kelly spurned them, too, opting for the USFL until it folded. But things worked out pretty well for Buffalo eventually.