Several players out of Ohio State during the historical 2016 NFL Draft class have gone on to be among the best players at their position at the next level. Unfortunately, due to the rookie wage scale, and the duration of those rookie deals, they are still being paid like unproven talent.
Players are starting to take control of their fate, and instead of going along with the status quo, they are instead holding out from offseason activities in an effort to force their team’s hand in dealing a new contract.
That’s the case for two of the biggest Buckeye names out there right now: Michael Thomas and Ezekiel Elliott.
Both have gone on to be among the best at their position, top many records at both the franchise and NFL level, and have outperformed their rookie deals through their first three seasons.
The wide receiver and the Saints have spent much of the offseason battling out a new deal, and when they weren’t able to come to terms ahead of training camp, Thomas opted to hold out. Since the wideout wasn’t a first round pick, he was set to make an insulting $1.148 million in 2019.
New Orleans head coach Sean Payton wasn’t too concerned that this would end up being a long term situation, and the team doesn’t exactly have the same type of leverage Thomas does in the discussions. Sure, the team has a great running back room, but there has been no other receiver that has the kind of connection Thomas does with quarterback Drew Brees, or the same kind of production.
Sean Payton on Michael Thomas#Saints pic.twitter.com/AT4eOlXByh— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) July 25, 2019
Thomas wasn’t planning on holding out from training camp, and throughout the offseason actually scoffed at the notion. But that all changed as the team reported earlier this week and the wide receiver was a no show.
ProFootball Talk is suggesting that Thomas’ new deal is looking like a 5-year extension that will either be worth $19 or $20 million a season — and he’s one player that is worth that kind of cash.
"This is the most reasonable and rational holdout anyone could possibly have. @Cantguardmike has been extraordinary. He's never been one of the Top 75 highest-paid WRs in the NFL, even though the last couple years he's arguably been a Top 5 WR." — @getnickwright pic.twitter.com/OAhJLECRl3— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) July 26, 2019
It was no secret that running back Ezekiel Elliott was looking for a better deal this offseason. He’s set to play on the fourth year of his rookie deal in 2019 and the Cowboys already picked up the fifth-year option. Charles Robinson, Senior NFL Reporter for Yahoo, is reporting that Zeke is looking for a new deal that tops 4-years, $57.5 million.
In order to get this new deal, Elliott is the latest player to opt for a hold out from training camp. Things seemed heading that way on Thursday when he wasn’t on the team plane to camp — but some players opt for their own transportation, so it wasn’t for sure. However, it was confirmed on Friday, when he didn’t attend the team’s conditioning test.
Despite his off field situations, he has been one of the league’s most productive backs since being drafted in 2016, and is looking to be paid like it. The problem, is that the Cowboys also have to pay up for quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper, which will both require big-money deals and sooner than Elliott.
"If I was Zeke, I wouldn't play this year. The Cowboys are getting ready to give Dak $25M, Zeke's a lot better than him; they're gonna give Amari Cooper $15-18M, he's better than him. Zeke's mentality should be 'I am your QB! You don't have a season without me.'" — @criscarter80 pic.twitter.com/EL8JwZDrtT— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) July 26, 2019
Whether or not he ends up showing up at some point ahead of the preseason, or whether he becomes the next Le’Veon Bell is yet to be seen.
Other Buckeye NFL notables
Unlike his brother, it looks like Nick Bosa won’t be holding out while finalizing his rookie contract, and reportedly finally agreed to terms with the 49ers.
According to Kyle Posey, Niners Nation:
“The total value of Bosa’s four-year contract is believed to be $33,551,874, or very close to that amount, according to OverTheCap.com. That includes a signing bonus of $22,421,364 and a 2019 salary-cap figure of $6,100,341. Because of the CBA from 2011, all contracts are four years long, and first-round selections come with a team option for the fifth year.”
Malcolm Jenkins is another Buckeye looking for a better contract, but he’s been in communication with Philadelphia Eagles’ owner Jeff Lurie who has assured the veteran safety that he is both respected and valued with the organization. Their conversations were enough to stop Jenkins’ holdout from spring OTAs, and he’s since attended mandatory minicamp and now training camp — where he’s already filling in at different roles throughout the secondary.