I imagine most of you are aware of the buzz about Dez Bryant notifying the Dallas Cowboys that, if he and the team don’t reach agreement on a long-term deal by Wednesday (the deadline for franchised players to agree to new deals with their teams), he’ll skip training camp and may continue his holdout into the regular season.
No doubt this will make some Broncos fans wonder if Demaryius Thomas will do the same thing. However, let’s take a look at what Dez can realistically expect to gain from any holdout that goes into the regular season.
Bryant — or any franchised player, for that matter — can skip training camp without getting fined, as long as he doesn’t sign the tag. However, once the regular season begins, a player who continues holding out without signing the tag, forfeits any game checks that he would receive otherwise.
Thus, Bryant gains almost nothing by skipping regular-season games. He loses paychecks, he loses the chance to show he deserves more money by performing at a high level, and he might not even get back into the lineup if another player performs well in his absence.
Some people might bring up Vincent Jackson holding out in 2010, but that was when the previous CBA ended and the “uncapped year” came into play. Because of a quirk in the rules, Jackson was a restricted free agent and held out into the regular season. He had less to risk because RFA tenders pay less than franchise tags, and a player under an RFA tender can sign a long-term deal with his team any time he wants.
Jackson signed his tender and reported to the team with six games remaining so he couldn’t be kept under the RFA tag again in 2011. The Chargers put the franchise tag on him in 2011, prior to the CBA expiring. After the new CBA was reached, he played the full 2011 season under the tag, allowing him to showcase why he should get a long-term deal, while collecting all his salary under the tag. He entered free agency in 2012, the Buccaneers came calling, and Jackson got what he was after.
Bryant, of course, could be tagged again in 2016, but if he really wants to convince the Cowboys or another team he should get a long-term deal, he’s not in the same position Jackson was. Jackson took advantage of a quirk in the rules after owners notified the NFLPA they were exercising the option to end the previous CBA. Additionally, Jackson had less money at stake under the tender than Bryant has under the tag.
So where does that leave Thomas? He’s in the same situation as Bryant, meaning he couldn’t be fined for missing training camp, so long as he doesn’t sign the tag. But once the regular season starts, he misses out on game checks and the chance to continue proving he deserves a long-term deal.
We have reached the final days in which the Broncos and Thomas can come to a long-term agreement, so if one doesn’t happen by Wednesday, it may very will be that 2015 is Thomas’ last season with the Broncos. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean Broncos fans should expect him to skip regular-season games. In all likelihood, if no long-term deal is reached, Thomas will sign the tag and play the regular season to prove his point.
Remember two things: First, Thomas and Bryant aren’t unusual among tagged players. No player who was given the franchise tag has reached a long-term deal yet.
Second, all the attention has been focused on Bryant, a vocal player. Thomas, meanwhile, has kept a low profile. Don’t take Bryant’s threats to mean that Thomas will follow the same path.
For that matter, don’t believe for a minute Bryant will skip regular-season games. He knows very well what’s at stake and won’t risk missing out on paychecks.