NFL Players Who Could Sign New Deals in Training Camp
As the 2014 NFL season barrels toward fans like a locomotive, the dawn of training camps marks a time when fresh ink gets put to paper around the league as front offices lock up their biggest stars, move to end holdouts or simply pay a guy his due.
As players don pads, agents get out of the summer heat and arrive at the negotiating table for their clients. Whether it is age, a salary-cap tightrope, injury concerns or downright performance, there are a plethora of names to watch throughout the preseason in regard to new contracts.
In a bit of a new twist, this offseason represents even more intrigue after the labor tussle of 2011 produced a streamlined approach to rookie deals. A variety of first-round picks have already been hit with fifth-year team options, making this preseason's process all the more convoluted.
The following stars are dark horses to land new contracts this preseason.
Whether it is an impasse, a wait-and-see approach from one side or the other or the notion that a fifth-year option means both sides will wait until this time next year, a contract seems unlikely.
Then again, crazier things have happened.
Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions
Are the Detroit Lions sick of Ndamukong Suh?
Possibly, especially with the news that the front office is willing to let him hit free agency, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Perhaps they just understand that they are in a lose-lose situation, as CBS Sports' Joel Corry details:
Suh has leverage in discussions with Detroit about a new deal thanks to a $22,412,500 cap number, which makes it virtually impossible to use a franchise tag on him in 2015 at $26.87 million (based on 120 percent of his 2014 cap number).
Again, it seems unlikely. But who knows what can happen when the two sides sit down?
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals picked up A.J. Green's fifth-year option, something the Georgia product is happy about.
"It's a good thing they picked it up," he said, smiling, per ESPN.com's Coley Harvey. "It would have been a bad thing if they didn't."
That seems to be the end of it, but remember, the Bengals have been proactive in recent years with this sort of thing. Andrew Whitworth, Leon Hall, Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins have been gifted extensions as of late, so a new deal for the best player on the team is not impossible.
Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos
In perhaps the most obvious move of the offseason, the Denver Broncos picked up Von Miller's option.
Miller is one of the best in the business at what he does and will get his at some point, but last season was marred by a suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy and a torn ACL.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton has been adamant in his approach to a new deal.
"For me, that's the last thing on my mind," Newton said, via ESPN.com's David Newton. "The first thing is trying to get little anky right. I'm not worried about no money. I'm not worried about things I can't control."
Carolina does find itself in a rather iffy cap situation, but a move to lock up one of the best in the league and a beloved figure for a small-market team should not come as a shock, no matter how professionally both sides have managed the situation to this point.
Alex Boone, OG, San Francisco 49ers
Alex Boone is not a happy man in San Francisco and is one of the NFL's more high-profile holdouts this preseason.
As an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State in 2009, Boone has since worked his way up to the top of the depth chart and been a key cog in what is annually a rather dominant unit.
The problem is, Boone believes he is underpaid and may have a point, so he chose to not show up to training camp. Dan Hanzus of NFL.com broke down the situation:
The decision is not a surprise. Rapoport reported over the weekend that Boone would not report to camp unless he was given a new deal. Boone has two years left on his current contract, which is scheduled to pay him $2 million with a roster bonus of $200,000 in 2014 and another $1.2 million in 2015.
Boone has numbers in his corner to drag this one out. Over at Pro Football Focus, he ranked as the No. 39 overall guard in the league last year but was No. 3 overall the year prior. He has yet to miss a contest in three straight seasons since assuming the starting gig.
For general manager Trent Baalke and the front office, it is a sticky situation he is not too keen to comment on, as captured by Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee:
“Once again, nothing positive is going to come from discussing any of this, our strategy, how we deal with players, how we deal with this situation or others,” Baalke said. “I've never seen anything positive come from that.”
The 49ers seem to have cap room available for a new contract, but keep in mind that Mike Iupati is likely a bigger priority in the offensive trenches and Michael Crabtree is as well. Both have contracts that expire after next season.
In other words, do not wait around with bated breath on this one.
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
One of the more interesting storylines this preseason is the peaceful standoff between Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs.
In his debut year with the team, Smith completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. He was especially impressive in Andy Reid's offense as the season wore on, but he'll take in a base salary of just $7.5 million this year before hitting the open market at the age of 30.
Obviously, the Chiefs would like to get a deal done in order to lock up their franchise quarterback, as Reid and Co. might not be so inclined to find out if either Aaron Murray or Tyler Bray can handle the job as soon as 2015.
“I mean, there’s communication going on,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said during his news conference Monday, per Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star. “Like I told you before, that’s the important thing."
MMQB's Peter King weighed in on the situation with a price tag he would assign to Smith: "Sign Alex Smith or wait? … If $16m or less, sign. If not, wait."
For his part, though, Smith may not be so inclined to want an extension on the off chance the market does well by him next offseason. That, and he isn't one for things that take his mind off the game, per Paylor:
You’re getting to the point where either way, you want it to stop being a distraction. You guys know how I feel about this, and it’s the truth. You’re finally going to cross a line where it’s like, it’s just football from here on out and I’m done not only talking about it with you guys, but even behind the scenes as well. We talk about eliminating distractions, and that’s a part of it. The focus needs to be on ball.
The Chiefs do not seem to be in a hurry on this front, but couple the logic that it makes sense to nail something down now and Smith's desire to just stop talking about it, and a swift agreement is not all that unimaginable.
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Andy Dalton has become one of the most polarizing topics in football.
The TCU product has taken the Cincinnati Bengals to three consecutive playoff appearances and improved in most statistical categories along the way.
Naysayers will point out his putrid postseason performances and the fact the roster has been crafted the past four years in such a manner that masks weaknesses of the man under center. If that is the case, why throw cash at Colin Kaepernick when the front office can just draft his replacement for cheap?
It is a tough topic, but Dalton is of the mind that his contract will come soon, as it has for plenty of critical members of the team in recent years.
"I'm confident. And both sides are working on it," Dalton said, via NFL.com's Dan Hanzus. "We haven't given a deadline, we haven't talked about a deadline. We don't expect it to get to that point, but if it does, it does."
Unfortunately, that is not how CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora feels about the situation based on his conversations with those in the know:
There has been no progress and no movement, according to sources, and while owner Mike Brown has made mention of the desire to get something done, using Colin Kaepernick's deal as a barometer of sorts, the reality is the sides aren't close. The disconnect between regular-season and playoff stats is an issue, the lack of a real second tier of comparable quarterback contracts complicates things, and I continue to get the distinct impression that doing a short-term band-aid deal (a la Alex Smith), or a long-term deal that doesn't include much front-end coin are things Dalton's camp isn't really interested in doing.
In other words, the messy quarterback market has hindered talks. The front office somewhat wants to pay Dalton like a second-tier quarterback, but there is no barometer, and Dalton's representatives surely will not settle for a short deal.
Quarterback purgatory is a scary thing. A long-term commitment is difficult to see at this juncture, but it remains a situation to monitor, as the ripple effect of such an agreement would have major league-wide implications.
Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Dez Bryant is a top-five wideout, yet he will make just $1.78 million this year.
Now add in the fact the cap-strapped Dallas Cowboys just found enough wiggle room to sign 23-year-old left tackle Tyron Smith to an eight-year extension worth $110 million, per ESPN.com's Todd Archer, and things are about to get very interesting in Jerryworld.
It is the proverbial rock and a hard place for Dallas. Extend the sometimes-erratic Bryant now, one year removed from 93 receptions, 1,233 yards and 13 scores, or wait and see how the market unfolds?
As ESPNDallas.com's Jean-Jacques Taylor explains, the latter option might not be a great idea:
Understand this: The market never, ever goes down. The Cowboys can either use Bryant to set the market or they can let other teams establish the market after deals with Cincinnati's A.J. Green, Atlanta's Julio Jones, Denver's Demaryius Thomas and Chicago's Alshon Jeffery get done.
Either way, Bryant will get his. The franchise tag is not a horrible fate, one in the neighborhood of $12 million. Neither is hitting a market that saw Mike Wallace get $60 million and Percy Harvin get $64.2.
“We’re totally committed to make Dez a Cowboy for life,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Our plans from Day 1 … figure a way to get Dez and Tyron extended.”
For Dallas, the smart move might be to work some more cap magic and get Bryant for the long term now. Who knows what he can do next season, and better to take the risk that he underperforms than to let the silly market set the price.
Nobody really thinks a deal is on the way for Bryant this preseason, but the same applied to Smith, and now he's worth $110 million.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
Perhaps the only player on the list who seems a surefire bet to receive a new deal this preseason is Denver Broncos wideout Demaryius Thomas.
Like Dez Bryant, Thomas is in the final year of a deal that pays him a laughable $3.275 million base. He is a 26-year-old wideout who has followed a similar trajectory to Bryant, as he has tallied consecutive seasons of more than 90 receptions, 1,400 yards and double-digit scores.
John Elway and Co. won't drag their feet like a certain someone in the Lone Star State will, though.
"I'm never going to go into the season, but the first couple of weeks, we can continue to talk about it," said general manager John Elway, per USA Today's Lindsay H. Jones. "After the second week of the preseason, we'll want to have had something done, one way or another."
It is interesting that the two sides have talked and an offer allegedly passed hands, because as CBS Sports' Joel Corry notes, the front office can absolutely take its time: "Denver doesn't have a sense of urgency with Demaryius Thomas. He is under contract through the '14 season."
The general consensus seems to be that this one will get sorted out sooner rather than later. But (there is always a but) then again, acting as the pioneer in uncharted wideout waters that pave the way for frameworks to deals for guys like Bryant, A.J. Green and Alshon Jeffery is no easy task.
Thomas may be first, but negotiations may not be without their complications.