Sports

The Million Dollar Men: Four of NFL’s elite sign extensions while Bell extends holdout

On Aug. 27, as Odell Beckham Jr. signed a five-year contract for $95 million to remain with the New York Giants. The extension, which includes $65 million guaranteed, makes Beckham the NFL’s highest-paid receiver.

Beckham’s contract extension was the first of multiple mammoth contracts signed in the week.

On Aug. 29, Aaron Rodgers’ wish to spend his entire career with the Green Bay Packers came one step closer to being realized, as the star quarterback signed a four-year, $134 million contract extension to remain with the team.

The contract makes Rodgers the highest-paid player in NFL history, an honor that is well-deserved.

The two-time league MVP will make $134 million in base salary, $103 million of which is
guaranteed.

If Rodgers reaches all his incentives in the contract, the deal will be worth up to $180 million.

The title of highest-paid player in league history is a title that becomes more and more short-lived for each specific player.

Since Rodgers took the title in the NFL following his 2013 contract extension, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Derek Carr, Matthew Stafford, Jimmy Garoppolo and Matt Ryan have all had the honor of being called the highest-paid player in the NFL.

The term “quarterback money” has become something of an everyday contract term, as running backs and defensive players have begun demanding quarterback salaries.

Since Rodgers’ extension, some have had their wishes granted.

On Aug. 31, three-time All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald signed a six-year, $135 million extension to remain a member of the Los Angeles Rams.

Donald’s contract made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, bringing his preseason holdout to an end.

He is now the 11th highest-paid player in the NFL, making more money than Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Flacco.

However, the title of highest-paid defensive player in history was not Donald’s for long.

Just two days later, Khalil Mack, who was traded from the Oakland Raiders to the Chicago Bears on Sept. 1, signed an extension that eclipsed Donald’s, days after Donald earned the honor.

Mack’s six-year, $141 million extension granted the star defensive end and outside linebacker the title of highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.

Mack, who reached a negotiation stalemate in Oakland, in which he was easily the Raiders’ best player, is the ninth highest-paid player in the NFL overall.

Like Donald, Mack, the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year, led a holdout throughout the preseason.It’s fair to assume the two stars were waiting for the other to sign before negotiating contracts. Because of this jockey for the title of highest paid defensive player, Donald and Mack missed the entire preseason and training camp in preparation for the season, which kicked off on Sept. 6.

How this lack of preparation affects the players will be seen throughout the season, but it raises the question as to whether holding out is the way to go when negotiating a contract.

A holdout is particularly effective if done by a former All-Pro or Pro Bowl player, as the reps in training camp are not as vital to their success.

Donald returns to the same Wade Phillips-led defensive system as last year and should have little problem readjusting to game day preparation. Mack, however, will have to learn a whole new system in Chicago, which may limit his knowledge of the defensive
system in Week 1. However, Mack’s combination of raw talent and ability should help him to adjust quickly.

Generally, exeptional defensive players hold out because they are commodities — they’re incredibly rare. They believe that they are undervalued, which may be true, particularly in the cases of Donald and Mack.

They can also benefit from a lack of preseason and training camp reps, as they will come into the season fresher than most other players. In the case of defensive players, holdouts will be more beneficial than they would be with offensive players, who will have to learn timing, chemistry and the playbook before the season starts.

This could be an issue with Le’Veon Bell, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ star running back who still hasn’t reported to team activities.

Bell is arguably the best running back in the league and has led a contract holdout the entire
preseason.

Surprisingly, on Sept. 3, the Steelers’ general manager Kevin Colbert announced that Bell was absent from the first practice during a regular season game week. While Bell is one of the highest-paid players in the NFL due to his franchise being tagged, he would like to be paid “in relation to his value to the team.”

He has been openly disgruntled about being tagged, threatening to retire if he is tagged again. Bell announced that 2018 would most likely be his last season in the Steel City, but he was still expected to play the entire season, including during Week 1.

As of Sept. 4, Bell has remained absent from team activities. Whether or not his holdout will affect his contract negotiations next season is to be determined.

However, this will definitely affect him more than Mack and Donald’s holdouts affected them. Without Bell in the lineup, the Steelers are without their starting running back.

With Bell not showing up at practice, he will lose out on important reps with the offense — though the system and roster have remained fairly unchanged.

The problem with running backs holding out for money is that their careers are so short-lived that long-term deals are particularly risky. Bell has only played all 16 games of the season once in his five seasons.

Even though he is an other worldly talent, a long-term deal is essentially out of reach for the Steelers, and it seems that Bell will have to look for a long-term deal with a new team in 2019.

September 13, 2018

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Andrew Marzullo


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