Life in the NFL is officially back. Sure, while fans will wait for several more weeks before a game is played, training camp has arrived. Players and coaches have reported to facilities, eagerly preparing for what will come this season.
But while some NFL teams are prepping for their first preseason outing, others are waiting for a high profile star to arrive. Several players have announced over the past month that they will not be reporting to camp until their contracts have been resolved. Some would like more money than what has been offered while others are looking for lucrative deals.
Now sometimes players will understand that negotiations take time. In Detroit, Damon Harrison and Darius Slay both reported to camp after threatening to holdout for new deals. In Atlanta, Julio Jones is waiting for Arthur Blank to keep his word and give him the extension.
Most NFL players are with the mindset of seeing the money first. Until the check arrives, they won’t be. This could go on for a while, but no one knows the story.
This week on the Two Minute Warning, we’re going to switch things up. Usually, I put this little spiel at the end before I start talking about what’s going on in the NFL. We’re focusing on seven holdouts, so it’s going to take up a ton of time.
I’ll go back to the old platform later but enjoy it this way sports nerds!
Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott
Ezekiel Elliott made headlines when a report by Yahoo Sports stated that he was contemplating holding out from camp. The two-time league-leading rusher has said in the past he would like a new deal and hopes to become the highest-paid running back in football.
Fast forward to this week and Zeke was nowhere to be found on as the team boarded their charter flight to Oxnard. Jerry Jones did meet with the press on Friday and stated that Elliott was not holding out but rather just “late” to camp.
“We have officially reported, so he’s a non-report officially and all of the mechanisms that are in place with your collective bargaining agreements, structurally under the contract, everything is in place and addressed if you’re not where you’re contracted to be, so he’s late,” Jones stated at the team’s opening press conference.
According to NFL Network’s Jane Slater, Dallas has offered a contract to Elliott, but his management has yet to release a counter-offer to send back to the team. Barring any disagreements, Elliott likely could be signed to a new deal in the coming days and meet with the team in California soon.
At the same time, Elliott’s situation is one with room to wait. He’s under contract until 2020, will not be paid until his rookie deal is over. He also plays a position that has started to become undervalued in the NFL. The Cowboys have five contracts on players that will benefit the team’s future coming up following this season.
Elliott’s leverage comes in the form of his stats. In two of his three seasons, he’s rushed for over 1,200 yards and been a superb addition in the passing game. If not for the six-game suspension thrown on him into 2017, he would have finished above the 1,000-yard marker three times and potentially been granted the title of the league’s best back.
This is one deal that should end soon. It seems Dallas understands that a player with Elliott’s value matters to the team’s success on offense. While he might not be at training camp now, don’t expect that to be the narrative we hear much longer.
Houston Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney
It was no secret that Jadeveon Clowney was looking to get paid. While he’s not an elite pass rusher for the Houston Texans, the 26-year-old has been a factor on defense over the past two seasons. The team elected to franchise tag Clowney, hoping to get a deal done over the offseason.
As camp begins, Clowney is not in attendance. According to multiple sources, Houston has been in contact with Clowney’s agent about discussing the future of the pass rusher down at NRG Drive.
“The sooner, the better,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said. “We would love to have him here.”
There are two main points when trying to break down Clowney’s deal: price and person of contact. Initial reports stated that the Texans did not want to give Clowney top-dollar as a pass rusher due to his stats pressuring the quarterback. Sure, while he’s not among the game’s best, his ability to be a factor against the run makes him valuable. One of the top run stoppers in football, Houston would rather him money for his skills there.
The other factor lies in who is calling the shots. At first, Brian Gaine was expected to be the man making the offer to Clowney and his agent. He’s now out of a job in Houston while O’Brien and other executives will be making the calls this season. With no one able to find the proper value of Clowney, this could last a while.
But according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Clowney will not be missing any regular-season games for the team. So while a deal probably won’t be struck anytime soon, expect the former No.1 pick to be ready when the Texans play New Orleans in the season opener.
New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas
If there’s one player that might have the most leverage when entering contract negotiations, it would be Michael Thomas. As he’s emerged as one of football’s top pass catchers, the 26-year-old wideout knows his worth.
When the Saints arrived in camp this week, Thomas was not in attendance. Reports initially stated that the wide receiver is looking for a massive deal to make him one of football’s highest-paid receivers. Since he is now sitting out on mandatory practices, he’ll be losing $40,000 per day until a deal is done.
But hey, got to spend money to make money, right?
If the Cowboys are playing tag with Elliott, Thomas is playing chicken with the Saints. After being drafted in the second round, the former Ohio State star has become perhaps the best player on New Orleans roster not named Drew Brees. In each of his first three seasons, Thomas has collected over 1,000 receiving yards and finished with nine touchdowns on the year twice, according to Pro Football Reference.
The reality is that so many receivers want to be paid now. Blank promised Jones a new deal following the extensions of Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones. Cincinnati’s AJ Green is also in line for a new contract following the extension of Tyler Boyd. Let’s also not forget that Amari Cooper is looking to remain in Dallas with a new deal supposedly in the works.
Thomas is going to get paid by New Orleans. If you think he’s not, you’re out of your mind. Until at least Jones and perhaps Cooper get new contracts, it’s hard to see a deal getting done. This is the one person with leverage, thanks to his production and wants to be paid for his contributions. Expect Thomas to be playing week one, but that might be when he finally arrives.
Jacksonville Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue
Jalen Ramsey arrived training camp in an armored car carrying thousands of dollars. Yannick Ngakoue pulled a better move by not coming altogether. The Maryland standout has been in the league for three years and already proven he is one of the games premier pass rushers.
With 29.5 sacks during that time, it’s simple that Ngakoue is the perfect side dish to Calais Campbell‘s steak dinner. He certainly is worth more than the $2 million he’s set to make entering the final year of his rookie contract. He also knows that his production has gone unnoticed by many at this point in his career.
— Yannick Ngakoue (@YannickNgakoue) July 22, 2019
Jacksonville is in a bind when talking about cap space following the signing Nick Foles. The other problem is the team will need to pay Ramsey soon before his contract ends in 2020. And that could be a problem for Ngakoue who is not reporting to camp while one of football’s elite corners at least showed up. Tom Coughlin is one person who doesn’t stand for attitude issues and players electing to hold out.
This is a deal that likely isn’t happening anytime soon. According to one report, Jacksonville offered a contract to make Ngakoue the fourth highest-paid pass rusher in football. He turned it down. With looking at who is in line to be paid next, this holdout could go deep into the season.
Los Angeles Chargers RB Melvin Gordon
Melvin Gordon was the OG of starting this trend in 2019. After entering initial contract negotiations with the Los Angeles Chargers, Gordon announced he would not report to camp and would like to be traded if not offered a more significant deal.
With camp now underway, the first questions asked by reporters were on Gordon and his status with the team. Old-timer Philip Rivers has seen situations like this before and knew just the proper thing to say when addressing one of his closest teammates.
“They’re going to get a lot of work,” Rivers said of the other backs, via the Los Angeles Times. “It certainly is a deep position for us, and those guys all love to play and work hard. We love Melvin, but we’re going to go with what we’ve got. It’s a pretty dang good group.”
The Chargers have stated that they will not be moving forward with any more negations with Gordon at this time. Gordon, who was a supporter of Le’Veon Bell’s choice to sit out last season, might be doing the same thing. And although he’s not the NFL’s top running back, he certainly has earned a significant extension.
But running backs aren’t paid. Even Todd Gurley took home a $60 million contract after posting fantastic numbers in 2017 and 2018. Gordon has rushed for 1,000 yards just once in his career. It’s not going to be surprising to see him miss most, if not all, of the 2019 campaign.
Washington Redskins OT Trent Williams
This is definitely the weirdest situation when talking about holdouts. According to reports, Trent Williams is actually fine with his contract. The reason he’s sitting out if due to an offseason altercation internally with the team.
This offseason, Williams had a growth removed from his head. He’s now reportedly upset with the way the team’s medical staff handled the entire situation. Now not at camp, reports are stating that Williams does not wish to remain with the team and would rather be traded.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 28, 2019
CBS Sports Jason La Canfora reported earlier this month that the team’s situation was “beyond repair to fix.” Tony Wyllie, Sr VP of Communications stated that the report was “100 percent false.” And the biggest kicker of all is Williams has yet to comment publicly about the whole ordeal.
Regarded by many as the top left tackle in the NFL, Williams is deserving of being the highest-paid player at the position. To top that off, everything relies on what he truly believes about the entire situation. If he’s not happy in Washington, the team would be wise to trade him and get an excellent return.
If you don’t like a place, you’re going to do what you can to get out. Until Williams speaks, this could be the one deal we have no idea what is happening.
10) We have our first injury of the preseason. According to the team site, New York Giants wide receiver Corey Coleman will be out for the entire 2019 campaign after suffering a torn ACL.
Injury Update: Wide Receiver Corey Coleman suffered a torn ACL during Thursday’s practice. pic.twitter.com/pupT46j1wa
— New York Giants (@Giants) July 26, 2019
The former 2016 first-round pick was hoping to transform his career after two seasons with the Cleveland Browns. We wish him a speedy recovery.
9) Taylor Lewan wasn’t the only player busted for PEDs this week. According to his twitter account, Giants wide receiver Golden Tate III is up for a suspension after taking a substance that was to help with fertility treatment.
My statement. pic.twitter.com/WzP7W4bclB
— Golden Tate (@ShowtimeTate) July 27, 2019
If the NFL does not accept Tate’s appeal, the Giants will be marginally thin at the wide receiver position at the beginning of the season.
8) As mentioned before, A.J. Green is looking for a new contract by the Bengals. That might be easier said than done following the past weekend. After running a route at practice, it was announced that the Pro Bowl receiver would miss 6-8 weeks with an ankle injury.
— Mark Slaughter (@MarkVSlaughter) July 28, 2019
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the conditions at the University of Dayton’s Welcome Stadium were subpar at best. A careless mistake like that by both the grounds crew and the team checking in now has one of the team’s top players missing a substantial amount of time.
7) The Arizona Cardinals announced that they would be releasing defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche. The move comes following an announcement from head coach Kliff Kingsbury stating that the former top recruit arrived at training “not in shape.”
— Lisa Matthews (@LisaMatthewsAZ) July 28, 2019
Nkemdiche played in 27 games but only started six games during his time with the Cardinals, recording 44 total tackles and 4.5 sacks. He missed significant playing time due to injuries. Perhaps a new move will help the former Rebel find his groove.
I wonder if Bruce Arians has called yet?
6) I’m a sucker for underdog stories. I’ll be honest with you; they are the best thing in sports. In honor of my love for the comeback kid, here’s a video of football’s greatest underdog Adam Thielen just proving why 31 NFL teams are kicking their scouting departments for not signing him as an undrafted free agent.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) July 28, 2019
I’m so proud of you, Adam.
5) The Baltimore Ravens announced that quarterback Robert Griffin III is expected to miss 4-8 weeks with a hairline fracture in his thumb. Jamison Hensley of ESPN reported the injury occurred when RG3 hit his hand on a helmet during Saturday’s practice.
Ravens’ QB Robert Griffin III is expected to be out 4-8 weeks with a hairline fracture in his right thumb, per source. Griffin injured his thumb tonight during practice.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 28, 2019
This could be a chance for Trace McSorely to prove his worth as an NFL quarterback. Wait? He’s not going to do that? I didn’t think so either.
4) Move over Taysom Hill; you’re not special anymore. The New England Patriots decided to one-up the Saints because of course they would by trying Danny Etling at wide receiver.
— Dan Roche (@RochieWBZ) July 25, 2019
3) Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is just showing the world deep down; he’s just an old softie. Either that or he just really hated his cleats and needed to find a way to get them out of his locker.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) July 28, 2019
2) Ladies, gents, people who love lamps like Brick Tamland, find yourself a person that will love you like the Dallas Cowboys love Jason Witten. After electing to retire following the 2017 season, the 38-year-old tight end returned to practice for the first time in over a year.
Crowd excited to see 82 back in the uniform. pic.twitter.com/CERv1eaEtw
— Evan Closky (@EvanClosky) July 27, 2019
Needless to say, everyone around “The Star” is happy that he’s back.
1) Make sure you check out the PFN’s Podcast network. On this new week, George breaks down the Trent Williams and Ezekiel Elliott situation further. Meanwhile, Eric and Zach discuss the new Madden rankings and Drew Lock’s first week as a rookie in the Mile High City.
Cole Thompson is the Lead NFL writer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter at @MrColeThompson.