This year the NFL team dominates

Holdouts are always a big story during training camp. Star players, dissatisfied with their contracts, will sit out to try to force their team’s hand, and fans are pretty split on the approach. Some people think it’s selfish for a player to hold out. But staying home is often the best way for a player to light a fire under a team to get a new deal done.

We watched this unfold last year with Eric Berry and Joey Bosa. Berry waited almost the entire preseason to sign his franchise tender and report to the Chiefs. Bosa and the Chargers couldn’t agree on two key issues — offset language and Bosa’s signing bonus — and the rookie held out for four weeks before the two sides compromised.

So far this year, Texans left tackle Duane Brown did not make the trip to training camp with his teammates. Le’Veon Bell is officially holding out, and Aaron Donald could be next.

Bell, Brown, and Donald all have two things in common this year: They’re fundamentally important to their teams and deserve to be paid for it, but those teams hold most of the leverage in this situation.

Le’Veon Bell can skip all of training camp and still make $12.1 million
The Steelers report to training camp on Thursday, and Le’Veon Bell isn’t there. He plans to stay away for several weeks, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

The Steelers hit Bell with the franchise tag this offseason and were unable to come to a long-term agreement with the star running back. Bell stands to make over $12 million this year under the tag, but he has yet to sign his tender. So he’s currently not under contract and is under no obligation to attend training camp.

Bell wants to be paid as a No. 1 running back and a No. 2 receiver, which isn’t likely to happen. Last year, Bell had 1,268 yards on the ground, and he was still Pittsburgh’s second-leading receiver with 616 yards. But his production doesn’t matter. Teams don’t value feature backs at $15 million per year. Still, Bell deserved a long-term deal from Pittsburgh, and now there’s no chance of that until 2018.

Holding out won’t change the fact that Bell’s options are limited. He can either sign the tag and play this season, or he can sit out and lose a paycheck for every week of the regular season he misses. The time has passed for the Steelers to offer him a long-term deal, so that $12 million is the best Bell is going to do this year.

And right now, Bell can sit at home until the regular season is set to start and still make that full amount. He doesn’t have to show up to training camp — even if Antonio Brown wants him to.
But he may not get his wish.

Duane Brown wants a new deal, but the Texans don’t
Brown is under contract for two more seasons, and the team doesn’t have a sense of urgency about getting an extension done. General manager Rick Smith went so far as to say the team has no contract dispute with Brown. But considering that Brown skipped OTAs and mandatory minicamp and is now staying home from training camp, it’s pretty obvious this is a holdout.

Brown’s current deal averages $8.9 million per year, which ranks him just No. 17 in the league for left tackles. Brown is one of the most reliable players on the Texans’ offense. He’s by far the best player on the line that will have to protect either Tom Savage or rookie Deshaun Watson. But since he’s under contract, the Texans don’t have to back down. They probably won’t, either.

Last year, top receiver DeAndre Hopkins held out for one full day during training camp. He still doesn’t have an extension from the Texans and is set to hit free agency after the season.

So what if Brown’s holdout continues to the regular season? Let’s go to Matt Weston of Battle Red Blog for a breakdown of what it might look like for the Texans:

Without Duane Brown, the Texans’ options are either to move Chris Clark to left tackle and start Breno Giacomini or David Quessenberry at right tackle, or see if Julie’n Davenport can bound from the Patriot League to the National Football League in one summer. All of these options are horrifying.
Ouch. It’s more likely that Brown will make his way back to the team before the season begins. But if he doesn’t, that could be ugly for Houston.

Aaron Donald deserves an extension, but can the Rams afford it?
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald skipped voluntary OTAs, but did show up for minicamp. He’s also still on his rookie contract through 2018 after the team picked up his fifth-year option. That means the Rams’ best player is making just $1.8 million this season.

The Rams gave a hefty extension last year to the underperforming Tavon Austin. He ended up with just over 500 receiving yards and three touchdowns last season, yet he’ll make almost $15 million in 2017. Donald led the Rams in sacks last year with eight, and he added 47 tackles and five pass breakups.

The Rams used the franchise tag on cornerback Trumaine Johnson and didn’t work out a long-term deal with the cornerback. Johnson’s $16.7 million price tag this season makes it about impossible for Los Angeles to work out an extension for Donald. The Rams are only working with just over $3 million in cap space this year.

Donald was noncommittal when he was pressed on Sirius XM Radio about whether he’ll show up for camp. We’ll find out when the Rams report on July 28.

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