Albert Breer of the NFL Network dissects the key issues for NFL teams and players regarding holdouts.
According to Breer, “there have been rumblings” that Texans DE J.J. Watt should consider holding out for a new contract given that he is one of the few players who has the clout to pull it off.
“If J.J. holds out, what are they gonna do?” asked an NFL agent. “Alienate him?”
Assuming Watt was willing to go this route, the Texans would clearly have to approach the situation with plenty of caution as it could have an impact on future negotiations with other players currently on the team’s roster.
“First of all, you can lose the locker room, especially if he’s really popular,” a former NFL general manager said of the issues a team can be faced with when dealing with a high-profile holdout. “And that means it’s a distraction not just to the player, but to the entire group. Then, if he comes back, is he all in? Say he’s back for opening day, and he’s not all in. So then you’re getting maybe 20 snaps of the player you previously had for 70 snaps. That’s real. You need to be careful.”
It’s worth mentioning that there has been no indication that Watt is in fact considering a holdout, but this serves as a hypothetical example of a player who could be successful in his attempt to secure a new contract.
Watt, 25, is entering the final year of his rookie contract and will make just $1,907,385 for the 2014 season. The Texans have already picked up his fifth-year option that will pay him another $6.97 million next year.
Beyond that, Houston could franchise Watt in 2016 for something close to $13-14 million, which would bring his three-year total to around $23 million. Based on his incredible production, that is an absolute steal for the Texans.
While there is no question that Watt is deserving a huge pay raise, a holdout could have a significant impact on his 2014 salary.
Breer mentions that players will receive a $70,000 fine for skipping a mandatory minicamp and can lose up to $30,000 for every missed day of training camp. On top of that, skipping a preseason game allows the team to dock a player the equivalent of a game check, so players and their agents would need to be extremely confident that a holdout would result in a long-term contract.
Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus recently examined the most underpaid players in the NFL last season and determined that Watt is No. 2 on that list. According to Jahnke, the value differential between Watt’s 2013 cap figure and the amount of money he should have made based on the quality of his play is a staggering $14.3 million.
Last year, he produced 80 tackles, 10.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two recoveries. Pro Football Focus has rated Watt as the No. 1 defensive end in a 3-4 defense for the past two years by a wide margin.