NFL training camps got underway last week and it came with a sense of optimism as teams got back to business. Football stars like Maurice Jones-Drew, Cliff Avril and Mike Wallace were among those who were disgruntled about their current contract situations and decided to not report to camp. Others, like Baltimore’s Ed Reed and the Jets’ Darrelle Revis, reported without incident despite hopes of having a new deal worked out.
Wallace, Jones-Drew and Avril all play significant roles in their respective team’s systems. Can their team succeed if there is a prolonged holdout? Let’s take a look at each of them and their particular situations.
Maurice Jones-Drew: Jones-Drew had made it clear almost as quickly as last season came to a close that he felt he was worth more money and wanted to have a new deal struck. Unfortunately for him, Jacksonville GM Gene Smith had a different thought process about paying the star running back more money, correctly pointing out that Jones-Drew still had two years remaining on a five year, $31 million deal.
Jones-Drew has proven his worth for Jacksonville; he led the league in carries (343) and rushing yards (1,606) last season while adding 43 receptions and 11 total touchdowns while appearing in every game. Jones-Drew’s 1,980 total yards from scrimmage kept the Jaguars in games they had no business competing in. If he doesn’t play, the Jaguars are in trouble, as second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert is not ready for prime time by any stretch of the imagination.
Jacksonville placed Jones-Drew on the reserve- did not report list over the weekend. The Jags are going to have to pony up the bucks if they expect to have any shot of competing.
Mike Wallace: Wallace is a speedster that is capable of stretching the field for the Steelers offense. With the departure of Hines Ward, who was cut and subsequently retired, Wallace is the de facto number one receiver on the Steelers depth chart. He broke the 1,000 yard plateau for the second consecutive season last year and averages 18.7 yards per catch in his first three seasons. He’s grabbed 171 passes for 3,206 yards and 24 touchdown passes in those three years, starting 34 of a possible 48 games without missing a game.
Wallace was given a first round tender by the Steelers, which means that if he plays this year, he’ll make $2.72 million. A lot of the money targeted for Wallace went to Antonio Brown, who signed an extension this weekend. While Wallace is worth the money, Pittsburgh may simply not have it to give.
Cliff Avril: Avril had a tremendous season in 2011, ringing up 11 sacks while forcing six fumbles and recovering three for the Lions. For his efforts, he was given the franchise tag by Detroit, which hasn’t done anything to endear the franchise to the defensive end.
Avril missed the start of training camp, stating that he didn’t want to get injured and it’s clear that long-term security is at the top of his list. Arizona’s Calais Campbell received a five year, $55 million extension and with better numbers than Campbell, Avril wants to get paid as well. He’s good, but the Lions boast Kyle Vandenbosch, Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley on the defensive line. His presence would be missed but it’s hard to see Detroit throwing a truckload of cash at him at this stage.
Do you think any of these players will report to camp without changes to their contracts?