With reports that Melvin Gordon’s holdout could go into November 2019, the NFL watches as yet another star player holds out, joining the likes of Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, Darrelle Revis, and many other stars who have held at in the last 10 years in hopes of a new contract. With Gordon joining Bell in holding out into the season and missing games, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of these holdouts.
1. They will likely get paid
While it’s not a guarantee, pretty much every player who has held out in recent memory has ended up getting the big contract extension they were looking for. One exception, Le’Veon Bell, ended up getting his contract from a new team in free agency.
2. Reduces injury risk
One of the key reasons players hold out when looking for a new deal, the risk of a serious injury that would derail contract talks is all but eliminated when the player is sitting on the sidelines. Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas learned this risk in the 2018 season when he ended his holdout without getting a new contract and ended up breaking his leg in week 4, leading to this reaction.
3. Their absence can show team how much they are needed
While this last pro could very easily backfire on the player, the absence of a star looking for a contract has the potential to show their worth and earn them their extension. One example of this is with Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith, who sat out the first two games of the season in 1993. After the Dallas Cowboys lost both games, they caved and gave Smith the largest deal ever for a running back at the time.
1. Team can find replacement
In the Chargers first game of the 2019 season, backup running back Austin Ekeler posted 154 yards and 3 touchdowns as starter Melvin Gordon sat out. A similar situation occurred in Pittsburgh in 2018, as backup James Conner made the Pro Bowl with Le’Veon Bell sitting out the season, causing the Steelers to move on from Bell completely. While the failure of a backup to succeed can help demonstrate the worth of a star player holding out, the success of one can end contract talks completely between the player and team.
2. Ruins relationship with team and scares other teams
While running back Le’Veon Bell got a large contract from the New York Jets in free agency in 2019, his decision to sit out the entire 2018 season ended his relationship with the Steelers and scared off many teams in free agency. This happened with Terrell Owens in Philadelphia in 2005, leading to them suspending him for the final four games of the season and ultimately releasing him. While you cannot blame an athlete for wanting to earn more money while putting his body and career on the line, teams may see it as selfish and a distraction, ultimately hurting the player’s value.
3. Miss practices, games, and money
While missing practices might not be a major issue for veteran stars, it could lead to them being out of shape, which showed when Darrelle Revis and Earl Thomas got injured shortly after ending holdouts or when Bell and Elliott showed clear signs of rust in their returns from holdouts just a week before their respective seasons. For a running back like Bell, a position known to have one of the shortest careers in all of sports, missing an entire season is also a big risk for his career. It meant losing a year of playing the sport he loves and missing out on $14.5 million in order to earn more later in his career.
While players certainly take a risk by sitting out, football is a dangerous sport with a small window of opportunity to make money. It’s also a sport without much in the way of guarantees in contracts, so it’s up to the players and their agents to get the most out of their contracts while they can. While it can appear selfish to miss games in order to make more money, ultimately football is too dangerous of a game to not capitalize when they have the chance. History has shown that teams normally give in to players demands when the time comes, so there is no reason for the players not to continue to take a stand, at least until their contracts become fully(or mostly) guaranteed.