Peter King’s report that defensive end Jadeveon Clowney won’t work out privately for NFL teams includes a suggestion that Clowney will work out once he’s drafted, at his new team’s offseason workouts.
Clowney should indeed do that, as long as whoever takes Clowney signs him to a contract before doing so.
With players taking more and more of a stand against assuming risks and putting in work without protection or compensation, incoming draft picks refusing to go to work without their contracts being signed potentially becomes the loose NFL equivalent of the Northwestern unionization effort.
Currently, draft picks sign a simple, one-page protection letter, which promises that they’ll get the contract they would have gotten for the draft slot they occupy, if they suffer a serious injury during offseason workouts. But with the process of negotiating rookie contracts so much simpler under the 2011 CBA, why not just sign the rookies to contracts before they show up for work?
There’s a sense among some agents that a stronger stand will be taken this year against working out without true protection. And that would be a very good thing. The NFL got what it wanted three years ago, dramatically reducing the compensation of the players taken at the top of the draft. The least the teams can do in return is crystallize that limited compensation in the form of a real contract, and not merely a promise to later give the player a contract.