Reed should shelve holdout talk
Players have the right to want more, but creating distractions is foolish
Ed Reed is wrong. Holdouts rarely work. They are bad for players. They are bad for teams. They cause unnecessary distractions and can lead to even more issues, particularly when a player doesn't get what he wants, be it more money or more security.
Holding out isn't the only way for a player to get what he wants, as Reed told a Baltimore radio station Wednesday night. In fact, it isn't a way at all. Reed wants a new contract. This doesn't make him unique. But what will Reed do to try to get one? Will he hold out of the start of the Baltimore Ravens' training camp in less than two weeks? Will he, at 33 years old, opt not to play at all if Baltimore doesn't extend his contract, which is set to expire at the end of the coming season? Will he decide it is more important for him to spend time with his 4-year-old son, or go back to school or play golf than it is to play for the Ravens for a $7.2 million base salary?
We will see.
Monday at 4 p.m. ET is the deadline for players who have been franchised, like Drew Brees, to receive a contract extension. Brees got his on Friday, agreeing to a five-year, $100 million contract that will guarantee Brees an NFL-record $60 million.
Chicago running back Matt Forte, Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew and New England wide receiver Wes Welker are all upset about being franchised. Welker signed his tag in hopes of facilitating an extension. (It hasn't happened.)
The threat of Brees holding out of training camp -- which would have been an unmitigated disaster for a franchise that desperately needs its best player in the fold -- was enough to spur the Saints into giving him such an immense payday.
Reed is different. He has a contract. He just wants a new one.
Given the realities of the NFL -- player contracts aren't guaranteed, and teams routinely ask players to renegotiate their deals down when they get older -- I never begrudge a player for trying to get more money, particularly one as talented as Reed. He was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. He has been to eight Pro Bowls. His 57 interceptions are the most in the NFL since 2002, and his 1,463 interception return yards are second most in NFL history. Reed has value, even at his age and especially considering the Ravens will be without linebacker Terrell Suggs for an extended part of the season.
Reed should maximize his talent for as long as possible, and he should get every last dime he can. Every player should. Their careers have short windows, and as has become painfully clear from the slew of lawsuits filed against the league and the untimely deaths of several former players, not everyone transitions easily into life out of the game. So if nothing else, they should get their money for their effort.
But to try to get it by holding out, as Reed has hinted that he might, is foolish. Holding out won't accomplish anything. Holding out only tends to make things worse. Doing so won't encourage the Ravens to do an extension. It will make them less inclined to do so. Reed would come off as selfish, as not a team player. The Ravens are built to make a Super Bowl run. They were one incompletion from getting there last season. If Reed holds out, he could be viewed as a malcontent who doesn't care about achieving the ultimate goal, whether that is the case or not.
And under the new collective bargaining agreement the players ratified a year ago, holding out got even more expensive. For every day a player misses, his team can fine him $30,000, up from $16,523 in 2010. In 2016, that fine amount will jump to an unthinkable $40,000. Holding out could cost Reed a significant amount of money.
DeSean Jackson was rightfully unhappy with his contract situation a year ago, when his base salary was $600,000 in the final year of his rookie deal. Jackson held out of the start of Philadelphia's training camp, and once he did report, he never could shake the bad feelings he had about the Eagles not extending him. It was one of many issues that wrecked Philadelphia's intended "dream" season.
After the team finally took care of Jackson this spring, Jackson admitted to the Philadelphia Inquirer that taking his contract dispute public by holding out was a mistake, and he advised running back LeSean McCoy not to do the same. The Eagles later re-signed McCoy with one year left on his rookie contract.
"Looking back now it really hurt me more than I thought it helped me," Jackson said. He added: "Them feeling like me holding out was more of a statement and trying to prove something. ... The Eagles are a team you don't want to try to force anything with them or strong-arm them, because you know [former team president] Joe Banner, [general manager] Howie Roseman and coach [Andy] Reid, they're not the easiest people to force to get things with."
The same is true with the other 31 front offices in the NFL. No one likes to see players hold out. Players don't win in those scenarios. Jackson sure didn't. Reed wouldn't either.
Go to training camp. Keep working on a new deal. Reed still might not get it, but at least he would have a better shot.
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