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Contract extension in the best interest for Falcons, White

The Falcons are three days into training camp and quarterback Matt Ryan's No. 1 target, wide receiver Roddy White, remains a holdout.

White, who is entering the final year of a rookie contract that will pay him $2.9 million this season, wants an extension -- and the Falcons want to give him one. However, money has gotten in the way.

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White, a Pro Bowler last season and an emerging talent who has had consecutive 1,200-plus yard seasons -- with 2,584 yards and 13 touchdowns since 2007 -- is seeking more than the $9 million average and $16 million guaranteed Packers wideout Greg Jennings received in a three-year extension this summer (with escalators it can climb to $30 million).

The Falcons had hoped to reach a deal well before now, but they don't want the dollars to venture into Larry Fitzgerald territory -- which clearly White's demands must be broaching since an accord has not been finalized. Fitzgerald signed a four-year, $40 million deal last summer.

An argument could be made that White doesn't deserve what he's asking for since he's only had a legit two-year body of work during his four-year career. That said, take White out of Atlanta's lineup and here is the domino effect: No. 1 wide receiver -- Michael Jenkins; No. 2 -- Harry Douglas; No. 3 -- Brian Finneran. To have a young talent such as Ryan at quarterback without a compliment like White on the outside will allow defenses to stack the line of scrimmage to stop tailback Michael Turner and double-team tight end Tony Gonzalez.

Ryan might be good, but if you allow defenses the luxury of simplifying what they do in order to bottle up Turner and Gonzalez, he might not look as good as he did as a rookie. The presence of White forces teams to decide whether to double him or Gonzalez, leaving one in single coverage and/or a soft spot on the defense for Turner to gash.

Several players from around the league have told me that White has really emerged as one of the bigger threats over the past two seasons. He's big, he's strong and he's one of the toughest wide receivers to bring down, which is why the strength of his game is catching intermediate balls and handling things from there. White also has the breakaway speed and hands to make tough catches on deep routes.

White's development could get skewed if a deal is not reached. His first two seasons in the NFL, he was not nearly as focused and committed as he has been in recent seasons -- and the results prove as much. If a deal is not reached and White reports disgruntled, this distraction could be highly counter-productive. A former teammate told me last week that White is a far different person and player than he was early in his career, but that this contract issue is weighing heavily on him.

The Falcons do have some leverage in that White could eventually cave and play without a new deal -- and be tagged with a franchise tender next season or sign a long-term deal at some point before then. Should the NFL and the NFLPA not complete a new labor pact, making the 2010 season an uncapped year, White also would be a restricted free agent because he has less than six years of service. That would allow Atlanta to cripple his mobility by requiring interested teams to give up at least a first-round pick in order to sign him.

It doesn't look like things are headed in that direction, though. One of the reasons why there has not been an acrimonious tone during the holdout is because both sides want to get a deal done. I've spoken to some people who believe something could get completed by the end of the week, although that is more speculation than inside intelligence since the Falcons and White's representation are keeping things private.

The Falcons are known for taking care of the players they want and paying them accordingly. Owner Arthur Blank has developed a reputation as someone players want to play for while making his franchise a destination point for players. There has not been an abundance of contract issues or holdouts with veteran players under Blank's ownership. That history and White's value to the team are signals that the sides will eventually come together.

Until then, White is losing $16,000 a day and the Falcons are training without their most dangerous big-play threat.

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