CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 01: Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs for a touchdown during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Mandatory minicamps are starting up this week for two dozen teams. Which NFL stars won't be attending minicamp due to contract concerns?
Mandatory minicamps are starting on Tuesday for 24 teams around the league. This is usually a good time to see how serious certain players are about their contract situations. A handful of players are still unsigned franchise tag players while others, like Maurice Jones-Drew, are using mandatory minicamp as a vehicle to voice their displeasure with their current contract.
One change in checking out player contracts this year is the NFL's rookie wage scale, which likely means we won't see any extended holdouts from the rookies.
But the veterans, including those issued the franchise tag, will wait it out for the long-term contract they desire.
The Saints mandatory minicamp was last week, so Brees has already passed that deadline. As a player who has yet to sign his franchise tender, Brees is not subject to fines for missing the Saints minicamp last week.
This is a tough negotiation to solve. Brees is clearly the most important player on the Saints. There's no question about that. The Saints understand that but would also rather not set the benchmark for quarterback pay. The negotiations have been tense at times, with the Saints reportedly suggesting that Brees was just a good, not great quarterback. Brees has said publicly that he doesn't know what's holding things up.
Brees was franchised once before while with the Chargers and he's awaiting a clarification as to whether the tag from the Saints means he's been franchised twice, which would increase his tender.
Brees and the Saints have until July 15 to negotiate a long-term deal. If a deal isn't completed by then, Brees can either play under the franchise tender or not play at all.
Despite the occasionally public negotiations, I can't imagine Brees not being on the Saints come the regular season.
Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew: Hard to find a middle ground
According to reports, Jones-Drew has no plans of showing up to the Jaguars mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. He's been quiet regarding his contract this offseason, but he is seeking a new deal. Gene Smith, the Jaguars GM, made it clear that the team has no plans of giving him a new contract considering his current one has two years remaining on it. The Jaguars GM wants Jones-Drew to "honor" his contract, which is laughable considering he hasn't hesitated in cutting a veteran who was still under contract.
Related: MJD Won't Be At Jaguars Minicamp
Jones-Drew is 27 years old and has a ton of carries in recent years. He knows he won't last forever and if he's going to get paid again it needs to be now. The Jaguars gave him a long-term deal back in 2009 before he was truly proven. Since then, MJD has put up three consecutive seasons with at least 1,300 yards rushing. The key point here comes in that last contract. The Jags want him to honor the deal while MJD apparently feels like he has out-played the contract.
This contract holdout hasn't been talked about much this offseason, but it has the potential to be the most explosive, especially if Jones-Drew takes this holdout into training camp as has been rumored.
Few players are more important to their teams than Rice is to the Ravens. There is little doubt that both teams want to get a deal done and, at some point, it will get done. But what's a fair number for Rice?
At just 25 years old, Rice can command a lot of money. He has over 1,200 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in each of the last three years. He's a key component of the Ravens' offense. The problem is that teams are hesitant to give running backs big money because that position takes a beating and isn't effective for a long period of time.
This deal will get done at some point because Rice is just too valuable to the Ravens. But it won't be easy because Rice is likely eyeing contracts signed recently by others like Adrian Peterson, who is among the league's highest paid running backs.
Related: Ravens Offseason Report
Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft like Jones-Drew, Forte and the Bears are in an interesting spot. The two sides both publicly say they want a deal done, and they should. We know that. But the Bears also signed running back Michael Bush in the offseason, making you wonder if he's Forte insurance. The addition of Bush makes the Bears less desperate to sign Forte, but it doesn't mean it won't happen. He says he doesn't want to be the highest paid running back but does want a contract commensurate with his abilities, which is close to the highest paid but not the highest paid.
Successful running backs may only get one big contract in their career because their value plummets as they get older so Forte should be determined in holding out until he gets paid.
Forte is too important to think this deal won't get done eventually but GM Phil Emery appears poised to play hardball.
Related: Bears Offseason Report
On paper, it appears the Chiefs are preparing for life after Bowe by drafting Jonathan Baldwin in the 1st round a year ago and last year signing Steve Breaston to a multi-year deal in free agency. But that's just on paper. On the field, Bowe is by far the most important Chief in the passing game and among the top 2-3 most important players on the offense. Four of his five years in the NFL to this point have been very productive and, even though he has a history of being a bonehead, the last two years have demonstrated he can be productive on the field and avoid mistakes off the field.
This negotiation has been quiet throughout the offseason, which suggests both sides are on good terms and something could get done. That said, this is a big-money deal with Bowe showing he can be one of the better receivers in the NFL.
Bowe, who has yet to attend any portion of the offseason program, confirmed to SB Nation's Arrowhead Pride last month that he plans to attend training camp.
Related: Chiefs Offseason Report
It doesn't sound like Avril, who was issued the franchise tag earlier this year, plans on attending mandatory minicamp in Detroit. He said minicamp is only mandatory for signed players, which strongly suggests he and the Lions aren't close to getting a deal done.
The Lions are in a tough spot here. They obviously want to keep Avril, one of their best pass rushers. But they also have a ton of money already wrapped up in the defensive line in 1st round picks Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley; how high can they go?
Pass rushers are a valuable commodity around the NFL. If the Lions won't pay Avril, someone else will. This contract may not get done before the July 15 franchise tag deadline because Avril can command some serious coin.
Related: Lions Offseason Report
Goldson is on the franchise tag and is reportedly looking for a long-term deal similar to the one Eric Weddle signed with the Chargers, which was a five-year, $40 million deal. The 49ers are reportedly not willing to go over $7 million per year while Goldson is seeking $8 million per year. That's a fairly small gap to close.
Like the rest of the franchise tag players, progress on this may not come until closer to the July 15 deadline. Expect something to get done between the two sides by that deadline considering the gap between the two isn't very big.