Training camps started all over the league last week, and with the training camps come the usual holdouts.
Usually, star players hold out during the start of camp in order to negotiate a better contract for themselves.
In recent years, however, some holdouts have spanned into the regular season. The best example is Le’Veon Bell sitting out the entire season last year with Pittsburgh.
It can be a big mess when a star player is willing to sit out and not play, in an attempt to force the general manager’s hand. Either they cave and accept what they have, or they get stubborn and not participate in anything the team is organizing during the offseason, including minicamp and training camp.
The risk of holdouts is everywhere if contracts are not addressed properly. Here are the top 5 players at risk of holding out for long periods this summer.
Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans
After five seasons, the Houston Texans chose to use the franchise tag on edge-rusher Jadeveon Clowney.
The 2014 No. 1 overall pick believes his performance and 10-sack record deserves a long term commitment. The trick is, since he hasn’t signed the tender yet, he is not under a contract, so the Texans cannot even fine him.
Head coach Bill O’Brien said: “As you know, he’s been franchised. He’s not here. It is what it is. The situation is what it is. I have every belief and trust that JD is working on his own and getting ready for whenever he does decide to show up. JD has played good football for us. He knows what it takes to be ready for training camp and stuff like that.”
The Pro Bowler is a valuable player, but he is below market. He did not show up at the deadline for the franchise signing on July 15, so that was the first bad sign. If he holds out of the training camp, that would be the ultimate sign of his protest.
Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs
In March, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach told Brooke Pryor of the Kansas City Star, “There’s a lot of time to go before the season starts, and he’s certainly a guy that we’ve targeted and would love to get done,” Veach said. “The conversations have started. I wouldn’t say they are heating up at a rapid pace, but you’ve got to start somewhere. We’ve had two to three of these conversations, and they’re getting better.”
Well, the conversations nearly went nowhere because Jones skipped the mini camp and is at risk of holding out all of training camp.
The defensive player wants a new deal, since he finished third in the league last year with 15.5 sacks. He had a monster year last season, so it is understandable he wants a new deal and it makes no sense the Chiefs did not address this situation long before the month of July. What clearly did not help is Kansas City’s acquisition of Frank Clark in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks, granting him a five-year, $104 million dollar extension.
Let’s see if the negotiations will end up this madness, so Jones can take his well deserved spot in this shiny new defense.
Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles may be without a key component of his offense as training camp ramps up.
Gordon has been a big part of the Chargers’ offensive rebirth, racking up nearly 4,400 yards from scrimmage the past three seasons.
The Chargers have an estimated $39 million in cap space to spend next spring, but a big part of that amount will likely be devoted to Philip Rivers, their ageless quarterback whose contract is up at the end of the year.
Melvin Gordon has some leverage this year having had a big improvement in his yards per carry in 2018, helping Los Angeles land a spot in the playoffs.
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
In three seasons in Dallas, Elliott averaged 101.2 rushing yards per game with 28 touchdowns and two trips to the Pro Bowl.
It seems inevitable that Elliott will be made the highest-paid running back in the NFL at some point. But for now, the Cowboys worry about giving security to Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper.
Elliott has privately said that he will hold out of training camp unless he gets a new contract, according to Pro Football Talk.
The hope for every NFL team during the summer period is being able to fix any kind of contract talks before the training camp so it does not disrupt their whole system. But that is not always easy.
As we enter the heart of training, the situation for every single player will be even clearer, and a choice will be made to give them what they are asking or tough it up, risking a strong holdout during a regular season.