Some of football’s biggest stars are holding out of training camp this season. I dive into the reasons behind their absence and what they hope to gain:
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
Bell has been handed the franchise tag by Pittsburgh the last two seasons and he wants a long-term deal that will adequately represent the versatility he brings to the running back position. Averaging over 1,200 rushing yards, 650 receiving yards, and 10 total touchdowns for the past two seasons, Bell has definitely earned that big-time deal. However, what Bell wants most is guaranteed money; the Steelers offered him very little of that this offseason. Bell’s agent also reported that the team wanted to “pay the position and not the player.” A long-term contract wasn’t worked out by the deadline, so #26 will play under the franchise tag this season when he signs it in September.
Khalil Mack, LB, Raiders
This is currently one of the diciest situations in the NFL at the moment. Mack and new Raiders head coach Jon Gruden haven’t spoken since Gruden was hired on a monstrous 10-year, $100 million deal earlier this year. Mack, the no. 5 overall pick in the 2014 draft, is set to play the season on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, which will pay him $13.486 million. He’s done more than enough for the team to convince them to pay him big money, averaging 75+ tackles, and 12 sacks over the last three years and earning NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2016. Mack believes he should be next in line for a paycheck from the Raiders, seeing as teammates Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson already got their deals earlier than he did. He also may be waiting on Aaron Donald to sign his extension with the Rams before bringing his case back to Oakland for more money.
Aaron Donald, DT, Rams
Donald is the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year and he only made $1.8 million last season playing on the fourth year of his rookie contract. He’s racked up four Pro Bowl selections, three All-Pro nods, and the 2014 NFL DROY award in his short career. Now, he wants to become the highest-paid defensive in the league. Donald wants somewhere around $20 million a year and desire to reset the market for defensive linemen. Donald wants fair compensation for his efforts and the value he brings to the Rams, a team that also handed running back Todd Gurley and wide receiver Brandin Cooks big extensions over the offseason.
Earl Thomas, S, Seahawks
At age 29, Thomas realizes that this may be his last time for a big payday. Although he’s missed seven games over the last two seasons, Thomas has easily been one of the most dominant safeties in the league during the time since he signed his last deal in 2014. He’s amassed three more Pro Bowls and one All-Pro selection and feels like he deserves an extension for his efforts, especially since he has now been passed six different times for the title of highest-paid safety in the league. Thomas is willing to hold out for a long period of time, which may force Seattle to move another key cornerstone of their former Legion of Boom. The Cowboys are a potential partner, but talks haven’t progressed far.
Roquan Smith, LB, Bears
Probably one of the most bizarre holdouts in recent years, the no. 8 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft is standing his ground regarding contract language around whether the Bears could try to reclaim some of Smith’s guaranteed money if he were suspended by the league for an on-field violation (i.e. new helmet rule). Smith’s side also wants to set a precedent for how rookie deals should be negotiated with fair financial protection for the player. Currently, he’s the only unsigned draft pick from this year’s class so it’s definitely a situation to monitor as training camp progresses.
Cole Topham is the lead editor for snacktimefantasy.com and covers the MLB and NFL. He enjoys watching his opponents suffer as he defeats them week after week in his fantasy football/baseball leagues.