Seahawks safety Jamal Adams, Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard, Cardinals edge rusher Chandler Jones and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers skipped the mandatory June minicamp because of issues with their respective teams. Tight end Zach Ertz and quarterback Deshaun Watson likely would have done the same had the Eagles and Texans held minicamp.
The issues fall into two categories. These defensive players have been unhappy with their contracts and would like new deals. Adams is the only one expected to sign a contract extension before the regular season begins. Ertz, Rodgers and Watson have wanted to be traded.
All of the players reported to training camp on time. The Packers were able to satisfy enough of Rodgers' concerns by making adjustments to his contract, including voiding the final year (2023). Rodgers isn't being traded this year.
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Training camp holdouts by players under contract are largely going to be a thing of the past because of more severe penalties in the 2020 NFL/NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement. Teams are required to fine players who aren't on rookie contracts $50,000 per day with training camp absences. Players on rookie contracts, like Adams, are subject to a $40,000 daily fine.
There's an additional penalty of one week's base salary (1/18th of salary) for each preseason game missed with players signing contracts as unrestricted free agents or first-round picks playing under their fifth-year option. Only Gilmore, who was an unrestricted free agent when he joined the Patriots in 2017, and Adams, a 2017 first-round pick, would have been hit with the extra sanction in a holdout.
These financial penalties don't apply to unsigned draft picks and players with restricted free agent, franchise or transition tenders who aren't under contract that miss training camp. Their attendance isn't required because of the absence of a signed contract. Contractually obligated services or performance isn't being withheld in these cases.
Under previous CBAs, the fines could be reduced or waived. Fine forgiveness or reduction is only allowed for players under rookie contracts, such as Adams, with the current CBA.
The substantial fines are clearly an effective deterrent of holdouts. Howard, who requested a trade upon reporting to training camp said, "Until that trade happens I am just here so I don't get fined, and will handle myself like professionals do."
For CBA fining purposes, training camp runs from the mandatory reporting date through the Sunday (Sept. 5) before the first regular-season game. Missing all of training camp would have cost the players under veteran contracts slightly more than $2 million depending on the actual start date.
The harsh economic consequences of holding out may lead players to adopt a similar or related approach to Jalen Ramsey's with the Jaguars in an attempt to achieve a desired result. A disgruntled Ramsey essentially had a "hold in." Ramsey forced a trade during the middle of the 2019 season by missing three games primarily because of a "back ailment."
A player might have a mysterious, hard-to-dispute injury during training camp until a contract gets resolved. Perennial All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins periodically had hamstring tightness during the preseason last year before the Cardinals made him the league's highest-paid non-quarterback by average yearly salary.
The Patriots placed Gilmore on the physically unable to perform list when he reported to training camp last week. This means he didn't pass his physical because of a prior football injury. Gilmore, who is in a contract year, ended the 2020 season on injured reserve due to a partially torn quad that required offseason surgery. Going on PUP is temporarily a perfect result for Gilmore considering he wants a new contract or his 2021 salary increased. He has an approved "hold in" while he is on PUP.
Players in the final year of a four-year rookie contract (i.e.; second through seventh-round picks) should probably walk a fine line with a "hold in." There's language in the CBA about not earning an accrued season (year of service for free agency) with a failure to perform contract services for a material perform of time. Without the fourth accrued season, a player would be a restricted free agent at the expiration of his rookie contract. Getting the year of service isn't a concern for players with four or more accrued seasons since they already have enough service time to qualify for unrestricted free agency at the end of a contract.
One thing that shouldn't happen, regardless of service time, is walking out after reporting. It can lead to some drastic consequences. When this occurs, a team can send a player a letter warning him that he can be put on the reserve/left squad list after five days if he hasn't returned, which would prevent him from playing for the rest of the season. The player's contract would also toll where it would be frozen and resume the next year.