6 NFL Players Most Likely to Hold Out of NFL Training Camps
Only the biggest stars seem capable of NFL training-camp holdouts these days.
Thanks to the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, such a move could lead to the loss of an accrued season toward free agency, and fines for missing mandatory time are bigger.
That doesn't mean they won't happen, but the days of consistent holdouts are over. Positions such as running back, for example, can't afford to lose the credit toward free agency because of the limited chances at a big open-market payday.
But star quarterbacks? Elite defenders? Those top-tier players are different stories and could hold out this summer. Here are a few who could do so, alongside a holdout meter assigning a value of 1-10, with 10 being a guaranteed standoff.
Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills
Holdout Meter: 4
The Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen seems like he'll be the next big quarterback-extension domino to fall after a borderline MVP season in which he completed 69.2 percent of his passes with 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions en route to the AFC title game.
Still, a holdout is realistic because he's a star quarterback who can afford, over the long-term, the cost of such a move. He'll also ruin his team's plans if he's not in camps.
All Allen has to do is point toward names such as Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson getting extensions before their fourth years for justification, especially after his epic campaign. That and the small $6.9 million cap hit he has in 2021.
Not that there has been anything to suggest the Bills will have a problem extending Allen. But his applying a little pressure to a team that has made smart move after smart move around him already (think, Stefon Diggs) wouldn't be the worst idea.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
Holdout Meter: 4
One can't mention Allen in this sort of discussion and not bring up Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens, in part because he carries an even smaller cap hit in 2021 ($3 million).
Never mind, of course, that Jackson actually won an MVP in 2019 before understandably regressing on the stat sheet in 2020. And regressing is used loosely because he still won 11 games, threw 26 touchdowns and rushed for seven more.
Like Allen in Buffalo, Jackson could disrupt Baltimore's plans if he holds out for an extension. And it's more interesting here because Jackson might negotiate without an agent.
Then again, there's nothing to suggest Baltimore wants to wait. In fact, that could do more harm than good because other passers like Allen could raise the bar for quarterback extensions—something Jackson is sure to understand.
Xavien Howard, DB, Miami Dolphins
Holdout Meter: 5
Elsewhere in the AFC East, Xavien Howard's gripe with the Miami Dolphins could boil over.
The 28-year-old signed a five-year extension worth $75.25 million in 2019 but skipped out on mandatory minicamp earlier this summer, subjecting himself to the same fines as Gilmore. NFL.com's Kevin Patra surmised he might have done so in protest of his being Miami's second-highest-paid corner behind Byron Jones, who arrived via free agency a year ago.
Dolphins Wire's Kyle Crabbs noted that Miami front-loaded Howard's extension, and his salaries for the 2020, 2021 and 2022 seasons all put him outside the league's top 10 corners.
Head coach Brian Flores has even talked of the long-term game with this sort of situation, according to Patra: "Again, very unique situation when we're talking about a potential renegotiation after one year. I think those kinds of longer conversations, we understand that. Obviously had a lot of talks and conversations about those, and we'll continue to have those and keep those internal, but it's a very unique situation."
The 2020 All-Pro might have a case to get a raise over Jones' $16.5 million average annual value, considering Howard had 10 interceptions last year while allowing a 51.5 completion percentage on 101 targets, compared to Jones' two interceptions and 60.3 completion percentage on 73 targets.
But he's looking at big fines, and the Dolphins don't have to use the out in his contract after the 2021 season. That makes this a tricky situation in which Howard might have to show up after making a statement if the two can't restructure. The Miami Herald also reported a trade demand could be in the offing (h/t CBS Sports' Cody Benjamin).
Stephon Gilmore, DB, New England Patriots
Holdout Meter: 6
The Stephon Gilmore drama has been bubbling in New England for some time.
The cornerback's name came up at the trade deadline last year, according to ESPN's Dianna Russini. It wasn't too shocking given the Patriots' penchant for moving on from veterans before they need another big deal. Plus, Gilmore—now 30 years old and in the last year of his pact—regressed to a 61.0 Pro Football Focus grade, placing him in the "backup" tier, last year. He also missed several games while on the COVID-19 list.
Fast forward to now, Gilmore already cost himself $93,085 for missing mandatory minicamp earlier this summer. It will cost him an additional $50,000 per day for a holdout during training camp, plus fines equivalent to missed game checks for sitting out preseason contests.
The two-time All-Pro sits seventh in the league with a $7 million base salary, which is half of Byron Jones' $14 million. As The Athletic's Jeff Howe pointed out, the win-now Patriots are playing a dangerous game with their secondary, as No. 2 corner J.C. Jackson will be a free agent next offseason. They also don't have anyone who can step in and immediately guarantee similar impact if Gilmore sits out.
All that aside, Gilmore told Josina Anderson he's not sure if he'll be healthy for training camp thanks to a quad injury suffered in Week 15 last year. The loss of an accrued season isn't a big deal for a veteran, and Gilmore has made plenty of money, but will be quite a costly statement about his desire for a new contract (or trade) if he says no thanks to training camp.
Chandler Jones, Edge, Arizona Cardinals
Holdout Meter: 7
Arizona Cardinals edge-rusher Chandler Jones heads into the final year of his deal due $15.5 million, which includes no guaranteed cash.
Jones, 31, has been a force in Arizona since heading over from New England in 2016. While he only played five games last year, the Cardinals have signaled they are all-in on contending in 2021 after the addition of big names like J.J. Watt and A.J. Green.
The Jones-Watt tandem should wreak havoc on the high-flying NFC West. But that won't work if the former threatens a holdout in search of an extension. And while the Cardinals might be hesitant about paying up for a player his age after his torn biceps last year, Jones' 19 sacks from the 2019 season are an easy counterargument.
While nothing has gone public about a Jones holdout, his skipping three days of mandatory minicamp and earning a fine seems like a big hint of what's to come. Given Arizona status, it's in the team's best interest to make something happen on the contract front—and Jones surely knows it.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Holdout Meter: 10
Even the most casual fans know of the rocky relationship between the Green Bay Packers and reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers.
The disgruntled 37-year-old doesn't want to return to the team, per ESPN's Adam Schefter, and the quarterback has more leverage than most other players. The fines, even stretching into the regular season, won't do much harm to a guy who signed a five-year extension worth $110 million in 2013 and has already earned about $241 million (not counting endorsements, etc.).
Even without the cash angle, the Packers can't afford to go from a win-now contender with arguably the league's best passer to a ho-hum team starting a prospect like Jordan Love.
The obvious end to this would be the Packers coughing up huge money on a fresh extension, not a trade most teams can't afford to make, which would probably include at least two first-rounders and more (before likely having to hand out that megaextension).
Rodgers and his camp know this, so any money lost in fines will probably be made back quickly if the Packers even let a holdout go on long.
Salary info via Spotrac.