Of all the 2011 draft picks who entered the NFL as rookie wage-scale guinea pigs, none of the guys who lost the most have shown an inclination to hold out of training camp in order to get a new contract.
So far, only one of the guys drafted that year has taken a stand — Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston.
A third-round pick who signed a four-year, $3.4 million deal, Houston is due to $1.406 million in the final season of the contract. He has racked up 21 sacks in 27 games the last two seasons, and he wants to cash in. Houston skipped all offseason workouts, including a mandatory minicamp, to prove his point.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Houston remains upset with the Chiefs, but common sense likely will prompt him to show up for training camp, stopping the financial bleeding at a fine of roughly $70,000 and a lost workout bonus of $25,000. In addition to the $30,000 per day in fines he’d incur for skipping camp, Houston would forfeit his shot at free agency in 2015 if he fails to report within 30 days of the Week One opener between the Packers and Seahawks.
That provision didn’t stop players like Chris Johnson in 2011 and Darrelle Revis in 2010 from holding out with less than the requisite four years of service toward free agency. But both already had received much larger paydays as rookies, and both were under contract for two more years when they held out.
Losing the year toward free agency has a much greater impact on a guy when free agency is less then eight months away.
And Houston gets more and more leverage with each passing day. As he emerges from every practice and game without a serious injury, Houston positions himself for a crack at the open market or, worst-case scenario, the franchise tag.
If logic and reason prevail, Houston will be there. If Houston’s emotions get the better of him, he may not be. Either way, he won’t be happy — which could actually coax him to an even higher level of performance in his contract year.