It’s a great time to be alive, my friends. NFL training camps are open. The sun is shining again. Every team is undefeated, except for the Lions, who are somehow already 0-2.
It’s been a long, sports-free offseason for me, I’ve been in hibernation since the draft. I haven’t read the trades, turned on my TV, or looked at my phone in months, because every time I did I had a message from someone trying to trade me Chris Paul.
But now I’m back, and just in time. By this point, we football fans are starved for excitement. We’ve spent the last two months reading about NFL players complaining about their Madden rating, and other notable wastes of time.
The two big stories this week are the opening of training camp, and the absence of certain players from those camps. And I certainly understand. I’ve been a training camp holdout for about 15 years. I covered many of those when I was working in radio and TV, and I can tell you attending camp is a mind-numbingly boring endeavor, especially since all of my Dallas media friends are no longer willing to spend their entire per diem picking up my bar tab.
But I have absolutely no problem with players holding out either, because it’s one of the few times where they actually have leverage. Whether or not they’re able to use it effectively is another matter, and yes, Melvin Gordon, we’re all looking right at you. I can appreciate you wanting more money from Chargers management, but let’s not forget this is a franchise that gave up on San Diego just to play in an LA soccer stadium in hopes of banking more cash. It’s not you, it’s them.
But with players like Ezekiel Elliott and Longview’s Trent Williams, they actually can make a legitimate case for better deals.
Williams is holding out from Washington in hopes of getting a better contract or a trade, and either option is completely understandable. Washington is a team with a young coach that will probably wind up starting a rookie quarterback, and an offensive line that is, as we say in the business, “rather stinko.” Williams is a seven-time Pro Bowler, and Washington is a disaster area, as we see every time we turn on ESPN, the NFL Network, or C-SPAN.
Elliott knows the Cowboys are in a playoff window that coincides with his league-standard rookie contract underpaying him. He also knows running backs have the shelf life of shredded lettuce. Remember when DeMarco Murray led the league in rushing and the Cowboys offered him 12 dollars an hour and a leased Ford Impala to re-sign with them?
Players should take their leverage whenever they can get it, because NFL agents know owners and general managers definitely will. You can ask Allen Hurns about that, if he’ll talk to you while he’s loading his family into a U-Haul headed for Miami. But in the end, these holdouts are a part of the system. Not every player is brave-slash-dumb enough to Le’Veon Bell a whole season away, most of these situations will be fixed up and quickly forgotten. Emmitt Smith held out for two games back in 1993, the Cowboys went 0-2, they threw a pile of money at him to come back, and they still won the Super Bowl.
From an editorial perspective, yes, other things happened in 1993, but those are the only ones important to this discussion.
So until the games actually start, don’t worry about the holdouts. And for those of you who say they signed contracts and they should honor them, it’s a cute sentiment. And it works in other sports where contracts actually serve both sides of the equation, but in the NFL, your contract just indicates how much it would cost them to get rid of you at any given time.
Think about it. A bad basketball contract still has to be paid in full, and the Mets will keep paying Bobby Bonilla more than a million dollars every single year until our sun goes supernova. But if Elliott shows up for camp a few pounds heavy, Jerry Jones could toss him out like old leftovers.
As a side note here, the concept of Jerry Jones digging around his fridge in the middle of the night for a styrofoam container of leftovers makes me laugh. I’m not sure why.
Reid Kerr negotiated his own contracts when he was in radio and television, and he doesn’t recommend that financial advice at all. Reid’s second book, “I Hate It Here: A Love Story,” is out now on Amazon.com. You can always tweet questions, comments, and angry messages to him at @reidaboutit.