While fans pleaded with him to stay at a "Reggie Rally" in downtown Philadelphia, Reggie White of the Eagles all but said goodbye to the City of Brotherly Love yesterday.
In a conference call with Philadelphia writers from his agent's office in Memphis, Tenn., White used words such as "discouraged" and "disappointed" to describe his relationship with the Eagles.
That was a sharp contrast to the warm words he used when he was asked if he admired the Washington Redskins, considered the front-runner in the White sweepstakes.
"Joe Gibbs and their whole management have done an excellent job getting players and keeping players. I admire an organization like that," he said. "The reason that the players want to be Washington Redskins and want to be Dallas Cowboys is that they see a commitment from the top."
White did add he hasn't gotten an offer from the Redskins yet and they won't be the first team he visits. The Cleveland Browns will get that honor this weekend.
Cleveland is in the running because White's wife is from there and the Browns have indicated they plan to be active in the free-agent market, although owner Art Modell denied an ESPN report that he would match any offer for White.
White indicated he'd like to sign in the next month, although a source said White may wait until Dallas quarterback Steve Beuerlein signs before making a decision.
As one of the top four teams, the Cowboys can't bid for White until they lose a free agent at a salary comparable to what he wants. Since Beuerlein and White both hope to get in the $3 million range, the Cowboys could offer that amount to White if Beuerlein gets it from another team.
Meanwhile, a noisy crowd of 3,500 urged White to stay in Philadelphia at a rally organized by a radio station. He sent a note saying, "I certainly have not closed the door on returning to Philadelphia."
In the conference call, though, he spent most of the time complaining about the Eagles. He said they haven't made an offer and he's unhappy he hasn't gotten a call from coach Rich Kotite.
"That bothers me a lot," he said.
He said he had heard from owner Norman Braman, but he's not happy with some of the things said.
"I'm sort of getting fed up with Mr. Braman bringing up things he did for me. I can't handle negotiations that way," he said.
That's an apparent reference to Braman's comments about his contributions to White's ministry. White, a minister, is involved in several charities in Philadelphia.
White is also unhappy that the Eagles are lobbying with the league for a high draft pick if he leaves. They designated him a franchise player -- even though as a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits he's free to go -- so they could get compensation if he leaves.
"It looks like they're trying to cover their tails. It's like they're preparing to lose me instead of trying to keep me," he said.
Of the lack of an offer by the Eagles, he said: "It's somewhat discouraging. In some ways, I've gotten my hopes up and then they've torn it down. I believe I can get money anywhere, but I'm looking for a team that makes a commitment to winning. I have nothing personal against Norman, but I think Norman is so business-minded that he can't see the important things needed."
Braman grew so flustered with his bottom-line reputation that he recently went public with the team's finances to point out that his $31 million player payroll was one of the highest in the league. By contrast, the Redskins, who have a free-spending reputation, spent only $3 million more ($34 million) on player salaries last year.
Although the Redskins are pursuing White, they could be in danger of losing some of their own players. Their key free agents, including Gary Clark, Art Monk, Tim Johnson, Jumpy Geathers, Fred Stokes, Danny Copeland, Martin Mayhew and Eric Williams, all are getting calls. The Atlanta Falcons have invited Mayhew for a visit tomorrow.
They're likely to get big raises whether they stay or leave.
Another indication of the pay raises free agency could mean came when the Los Angeles Raiders offered offensive lineman Gerald Perry over $1 million, more than twice his Rams salary. Perry, who fits the Raider profile with several off-the-field problems, reportedly is close to signing and could be the first to change teams in the new system.