Article by: Kevin Eagleson
The NFL preseason is one of the most exciting times of the year for fans of the league. For the first time in over five months, fans are able to see their favorite team in action. The preseason indicates that the regular season is right around the corner, with all 32 teams eager to have the opportunity to become the next NFL champion.
The preseason used to be highlighted by recently traded stars practicing with their new team, players recovering from injuries, and even some crazy training camp entrances. However, preseason storylines are now dominated by holdouts. Star players feel they are worth more than their current contract, and do not want to risk injury before being paid. Many credit running back Le’Veon Bell for sparking the new trend of sitting out the preseason and possibly beyond, as last year he sat out an entire season for the Pittsburgh Steelers before eventually receiving a long term contract from the New York Jets.
This year, some of the biggest names in the league have yet to arrive to training camp, causing some uncertainty among their organization and fans.
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, who is entering the 5th year-option of his rookie deal, has not reported to Charger’s camp. Gordon has been extremely productive in LA, but is looking to become one of the highest paid backs in the league. It is uncertain at this point if the Chargers will pay that premium to bring back their star running back, but it will be difficult for the Chargers to replace Gordon’s talents.
Another running back, Ezekiel Elliot of the Dallas Cowboys has also not shown up at camp yet. Elliot (last year’s rushing leader) has been the most productive running back in the NFL since he was drafted, and is currently one of the top-two backs in the game. ‘Zeke’ is a vital component of the Cowboys, and the biggest reason for the team’s recent success. The Cowboys look to be a real competitor this season, but they are just not the same without their star running back.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas has also not reported to camp at this point. Thomas is entering the last year of his rookie deal, and has proved to be one of the most productive receivers in the league. Like the Cowboys, the Saints have a real chance to make a playoff run this year, but Drew Brees needs his favorite target. Thomas is a crucial piece of that offense and behind him; the Saints are very thin at receivers.
Players also worth mentioning are Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who is in the final year of his rookie deal and has also not appeared at camp, but will likely report by August 6th in order to become an unrestricted free-agent in the next offseason. Texans pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney has also yet to be seen, but is in a different situation than the rest, as he had not signed his new contract (franchise tag).
Holdouts are a difficult situation for both parties. The teams are not required in any way to pay the players what they are requesting. However, most teams have an opportunity to have a successful season and make a run at the playoffs. The players holding out are among the league’s best and are a crucial part of the roster. It will be interesting to see how these situations pan out, and also to see if the holdout trend continues in upcoming seasons.
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