There are some interesting situations unfolding around the league that could lead to NFL players holding out of training camp, and potentially even the regular season.
From a disgruntled star left tackle who reportedly wants to be traded to a superstar receiver who is looking to set a new market, these players could assert their power by holding out this summer.
Damon Harrison, defensive tackle, Detroit Lions
“Snacks” was one of two prominent defensive stars on Detroit’s roster who held out of mandatory minicamp. The dominant run-stuffing defensive lineman is due to make just under $16 million the next two years. However, the guarantees left on his current deal are scant (just $3.2 million this year), and he will receive no roster bonus or signing bonus to soften the blow. That’s not going to be an attractive situation for any 30-year-old lineman in this league. With that in mind, don’t be surprised if Harrison continues his holdout well into training camp, or longer.
Trent Williams, left tackle, Washington Redskins
During the first week of June, an explosive report emerged indicating that Williams has demanded to be traded or released and has “vowed” to never play for the team again. He reportedly is upset about the way Washington handled what was a scary situation regarding a growth on his head, which thankfully turned out not to be malignant. The Washington Post recently shared that “some around the team” expect Williams to attend training camp. We’ll believe it when we see it.
Chris Jones, defensive tackle, Kansas City Chiefs
Currently one of the biggest bargains in the NFL, this dominant interior lineman is still playing out his rookie deal and is set to make under $2 million in 2019. Not surprisingly, Jones held out of mandatory minicamp as he angles for a new deal. The Chiefs are reportedly playing hardball with the former second-round pick and will not negotiate with him until he reports. A player who was an absolute nightmare last year (15.5 sacks) and clearly the best defender on Kansas City’s roster, Jones could be a long-term holdout due to the lack of compensation on his current contract.
Robbie Gould, kicker, San Francisco 49ers
Now here’s a unique situation. The 49ers used the franchise tag to keep Gould from hitting the open market earlier this spring. That’s understandable. Gould has made 96 percent of his kicks the past two years and is one of the best placekickers in the league. He reportedly pulled out of negotiations months ago saying he would not do a long-term deal with San Francisco, and it’s been widely reported that he wants to go back to Chicago and play for the Bears. Gould hasn’t been at any offseason workouts for the 49ers — voluntary or mandatory — and hasn’t given any indication he plans on budging heading into training camp.
Michael Thomas, wide receiver, New Orleans Saints
Since entering the NFL as a second-round rookie out of Ohio State, Thomas has caught more passes (321) than any other receiver in the league. That’s also an NFL record for a player’s first three seasons. One of the most potent offensive weapons in the league, Thomas is looking to set the market for receivers and is reportedly seeking a record-breaking $22 million per year. If he and the Saints don’t hammer out a long-term extension, then Thomas is slated to earn just $1.6 million in 2019. It’s hard to believe he will risk a significant injury over that relatively paltry sum.
Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE, Jacksonville Jaguars
One of the league’s most devastating edge rushers, Ngakoue has more sacks since his rookie campaign (29.5) than the likes of DeMarcus Lawrence and Dee Ford — both of whom inked massive long-term extensions this offseason. Set to make just $2.2 million in 2019, the former third-round pick out of Maryland and current client of Roc Nation has already held out of mandatory minicamp. Ngakoue will almost certainly be a long-term holdout this summer if the Jaguars don’t pay him what he believes he is worth.
Duke Johnson, running back, Cleveland Browns
Johnson has made it clear throughout the offseason that he wants to be traded away from Cleveland. He is upset that the Browns brought Kareem Hunt on board (recently said he feels “unwanted” by the Browns) and wants the chance to prove he is more than just a role player. Making things even more complicated, Baker Mayfield publicly threw Johnson under the bus during minicamp, which Johnson attended after holding out of voluntary workouts. Don’t be surprised if the combination of circumstances surrounding the talented pass-catching receiver ultimately leads to a summer holdout.
Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE, Houston Texans
Clowney and the Texans haven’t been able to come close to negotiating a long-term extension. With the July 15 deadline for franchise-tagged players and their teams to make it happen looming, it seems more and more likely that Clowney will continue his offseason holdout into training camp. With just under $16 million guaranteed on the table, it would be stunning if Clowney held out during the regular season. However, if the two sides don’t hammer out an extension before the deadline, we fully expect Clowney to protect his body and skip training camp.
Darius Slay, cornerback, Detroit Lions
Detroit has already been put on notice that its top cover man may not show up for training camp: “Will I be there?” Slay said, via the Detroit Free Press. “We’ll see. Time will tell.”
That’s a pretty clear “Pay me or I’m not coming” statement from one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. Set to make base salaries of $12.55 million in 2019, and $10 million in 2020, Slay’s compensation doesn’t match his production. He is currently the 13th-highest-paid corner in the NFL.