Six NFL players skipped their team's mandatory minicamps this month – for a variety of reasons.
Baker Mayfield, relegated to a backup role and on the trading block despite his $18.9-million fully guaranteed salary, was excused from attending the Cleveland Browns' get-together. Robert Quinn, fresh off an 18.5-sack season, steered clear of the rebuilding Chicago Bears because he's trying to force a trade. Rodney Hudson blew off the Arizona Cardinals for a reason that head coach Kliff Kingsbury chose not to disclose. And Orlando Brown Jr. hasn't signed his franchise-tag tender with the Kansas City Chiefs, so he's officially not under contract and therefore under no obligation to show up for minicamp.
This brings us to Terry McLaurin and DK Metcalf, who respectively withheld their services from the Washington Commanders and Seattle Seahawks for the most old-fashioned reason of all: They want more money. Both receivers are entering the final year of their rookie contracts, and they're sure to get paid handsomely on a future veteran deal. The real questions are when, how much, and by which team.
Holdouts are more costly now
Holding out in an attempt to secure a better contract is far more rare in the NFL than it used to be, which is by design.
Most of the NFL's offseason program is voluntary, which is a word with a specific meaning that the players negotiated into the collective bargaining agreement for a specific purpose. However, attendance at the non-contact minicamps that run for a maximum of three consecutive days in June is mandatory, and the same goes for the full-contact training camps later this summer. Every team except the Bengals and Eagles opted to have a mandatory minicamp this year.
Like Quinn and Hudson, McLaurin and Metcalf face fines totaling $95,877 for missing all three days. Those fines can be forgiven, though, and teams often do so as a gesture of good faith once a holdout situation is resolved.
But keep this in mind once training camps roll around: Under the terms of the current CBA that was approved in 2020, players on veteran contracts (like Quinn and Hudson) must be fined $50,000 per day for training-camp absences, plus a regular-season game check for each preseason game missed. And those fines cannot be forgiven. But players on rookie contracts (like McLaurin and Metcalf) are subject to fines of $40,000 per day. Also, their teams can choose to waive those fines and cannot dock them a game check for missing a preseason game.
In short, a player gets dinged for ditching minicamp, but management has made the price of missing training camp much higher. However, there's a bit more wiggle room for players on cost-controlled rookie deals. So where does that leave McLaurin and Metcalf? It depends on what they're willing to risk and how hard they're willing to bargain.