With the draft delayed by two weeks, teams will be more anxious than ever to get their players involved in offseason workouts.
Which means that the players have leverage. Which means that they should use it.
It’s time for draft picks to collectively tell teams that, if teams want them to show up for work, teams should sign them to contracts. A one-page injury protection letter, promising to sign them to the contract they would have received if they tear an ACL or pop an Achilles’ tendon, doesn’t cut it. Guys can and will get injured. This year, an ACL was torn during a pre-draft workout. Last week, a veteran receiver broke an arm during supposedly non-contact, low-impact minicamp practices.
The 2011 labor deal supposedly makes it much easier than ever to negotiate rookie contracts. So negotiate them now. Sign them now. Pay them now.
Ultimately, the agents need to be the ones to rise up together and tell the teams that there won’t be effort for nothing. That the players who were drafted won’t be working until they are employees with signed contracts, like the veterans and the undrafted free agents who are being signed in the aftermath of the draft.
If enough of the influential agents are willing to keep their players away from offseason workouts absent a signed contract, more agents will follow suit.
Ultimately, the NFLPA should get involved, urging players and agents across the board to refuse to show up unless and until draft picks have the same rights and protections as every other employee of every NFL team. From Jadeveon Clowney to Mr. Irrelevant and in between, if the teams want them to work, it’s time to open the pocketbook and pay.