Training camp is here and the start of the NFL season is just a month away, yet holdouts and contract disputes are prevalent all across the league. The financial aspect of the game is never easy for either side – players naturally want to be compensated accordingly for putting their bodies on the line every week, and owners and general managers want to build the most cost-effective roster possible.
So, with several of the game’s brightest stars on the sideline, which players will get their contracts, and who will have to wait for free agency?
Predicting the Fate of the Biggest NFL Holdouts, Contract Disputes
Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones might be the best player at his position not named Aaron Donald, and he’s looking for a contract that better reflects his abilities. According to reports across the league, Jones is looking for $30 million per year, and the cash-strapped Chiefs aren’t inclined to hand out that type of a check to a player entering his age-29 season.
While $30 million is a lot to commit to any non-quarterback, Chris Jones should win this NFL holdout. Kansas City is in the midst of their Super Bowl window and they shouldn’t let a contract dispute get in the way of chasing back-to-back championships. Additionally, while a Chris Jones extension could cause some financial issues down the road, it could free up to $16 million in cap space for the 2023 season. Ultimately, Jones has most of the leverage and should get a new deal.
11 straight games with a sack?
Chris Jones did that. And broke the NFL record.
— NFL (@NFL) July 3, 2021
Generally speaking, teams and players don’t make contract disputes personal. Both sides acknowledge that the NFL is a business and organizations don’t take holdouts personally – heck, Jonathan Taylor isn’t even holding out, he just wants a new contract. With just about any other owner, this situation would be quietly handled in-house.
Jim Irsay is not your typical owner, and he’s made it very clear that he is not going to pay big money to a running back. He’s also not going to trade Taylor, and could even place him on the Non-Football Injury list to prevent him from hitting the open market next year.
The Colts owner went so far as to say that nobody would miss Taylor (or himself) if both men were to die tomorrow. Even though Zack Moss broke his arm and the Colts desperately need another running back, it’s clear that Irsay will not give in to Taylor’s demands. This one could last a while.
Zack Martin is one of the best guards in football, yet there are seven guards set to receive a higher paycheck in 2023. Jerry Jones believes that Martin is adequately paid for his production, and it’s hard to see how the offensive lineman can regain any leverage here.
If Martin were a skill position player, perhaps the team could add some performance-based incentives to his contract. However, seeing as Martin plays guard, it’s hard to include such incentives in any revised deal. At the end of the day, Zack Martin is still great, but he doesn’t play an important position and the Cowboys have no reason to pay him. Look for Martin to report to camp just before the start of the regular season.
Several big-name running backs have struggled to earn Cole Kmet money this offseason. Just like Taylor, J.K. Dobbins is not technically part of an NFL holdout, but he’s still on the Physically Unable to Perform list and could be nursing his injury to reduce the risk of practice-based injuries.
Whether he’s practicing or not, it’s hard to see Dobbins getting a raise any time soon. Even if you ignore the complete devaluation of the running back position, Dobbins is coming off yet another injury and has yet to prove capable of handling a full workload. Put simply, there is no market for Dobbins, and he’ll have to come back and prove his worth on the field if he wants a raise.
If any of the NFL holdouts will result in a new contract, it’s Josh Jacobs. The reigning rushing champion is in a stalemate with the Las Vegas Raiders, but Jacobs is actually in a position to win this staring contest. Head coach Josh McDaniels is on the hot seat, and if the Raiders start off slow, he’ll have to pay Jacobs if he wants to save his job. After all, why would he care if the contract doesn’t look good in two years if he’s no longer with the organization? Seeing as the Raiders play in a difficult division and are near the bottom of the NFL Power Rankings, it shouldn’t take more than a few weeks for the Raiders to give in to Jacobs’ demands.
Main Photo: Kirby Lee – USA Today Sports