By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Rob Gronkowski may have skipped the New England Patriots’ voluntary offseason workouts due to his desire for a new contract, but the All-Pro tight end did show up for mandatory minicamp in Foxboro. The same can’t be said for other high-priced stars who are holding out across the National Football League.
While the Patriots held their own minicamp last week in Foxboro, this week marked the start of those mandatory sessions for many other NFL teams. However, as some players are showing their teams, “mandatory” is just another way of saying “skip this and we’ll fine you.” And for a number of elite players on both sides of the ball, the short-term financial hit is worth it for the long-term payday.
Here’s a list of players who are reportedly holding out of mandatory minicamp this week, all reportedly because they desire new contracts. Five of these six players have a combined 11 First Team All-Pro distinctions from the Associated Press:
— Falcons WR Julio Jones
— Rams DT Aaron Donald
— Cardinals RB David Johnson
— Seahawks S Earl Thomas
— Raiders LB Khalil Mack
— Titans LT Taylor Lewan
Lewan is the only player of the six without an AP First Team All-Pro honor, but he did make the first team from The Sporting News in 2017 and has made the last two Pro Bowls. Per NFL rules, they can all be fined up to $84,435 ($14,070 for the first day, $28,150 for day two, and $42,215 for day three) for missing the entirety of mandatory minicamp.
Those fines are, of course, drops in the bucket compared to the contracts that those players are set to earn on their next deals. Jones, Donald, and Mack, in particular, will have chances to make north of $15 million per season and be among the highest-paid players at their respective positions.
It’s not necessarily bad form for the players or major problems for the teams, either. In fact, holdouts are pretty much expected for players of this caliber who are nearing the end of their rookie deals without extensions in place. It’s the only serious leverage they have against their teams, who usually guarantee only about half of the contracts they hand out and can always apply the franchise tag to players approaching free agency.
For these reasons, it would’ve been hard to blame Gronkowski if he followed suit and sat out mandatory minicamp for the Patriots. He reportedly cited concerns about staying healthy as one of the reasons for skipping OTAs, but that obviously didn’t keep him from attending minicamp in Foxborough.
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The overall media reaction, however, if Gronkowski did go full holdout like the others? It would’ve likely been treated like the start of World War III. On the airwaves here at 98.5 The Sports Hub, anyway, Gronk’s absence from minicamp might’ve been an even bigger story than Julian Edelman facing a four-game suspension for PEDs. It would’ve been insufferable. Not that the New England media should be killing these other teams/players. Just speaking to what would be the likely reality.
Ultimately, it has to bode well for Gronkowski and the Patriots in terms of their negotiations on a new contract. Gronk didn’t feel the need to deliver the ultimate shot across the bow. Although his new contract may not be imminent yet, there’s now about 5-6 weeks for the two sides to hammer something out.
The fact that No. 87 didn’t go to the furthest possible lengths to get the Patriots’ attention over his contract has to be a subtly positive sign for his relationship with Bill Belichick and the organization, right now and moving forward.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.