Players who have leverage should use it, up to and including holding out in order to get their best possible financial arrangements. But players also should be careful not to overplay their hand, and that continues to be what Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is doing.
He has missed all of training camp, subjecting him to daily fines of $30,000 per day. And yes, it’s only $30,000 per day for him (not $40,000), one of the quirks of the fifth-year option.
But the other quirk of the fifth-year option is that, for every preseason game he misses, Gordon can be fined the full amount of a regular-season game check. At a fifth-year salary of $5.605 million, that’s more than $329,000 for the Week One preseason game, $329,000 for the next one, and a potential total fine of $1.316 million if he misses all four of them.
Meanwhile, the Chargers aren’t budging. Why should they? Gordon isn’t Ezekiel Elliott or Saquon Barkley or Christian McCaffrey, currently (in my view) the three superstar tailbacks in the NFL. For the Chargers, it makes far more sense to move on with what they have, as quarterback Philip Rivers had said (even if he shouldn’t have said it) than to give Gordon a market-value contract.
That same thinking applies to the other 31 teams, or someone would have tried to trade for Gordon by now. That’s not going to happen, because a new team would have to pay him more than his skill and his position justify, and a new team would have to give the Chargers something better than the third-round compensatory pick they stand to get in 2021 if Gordon leaves via free agency in 2020.
As previously explained, sitting out the full year won’t help Gordon like it helped Le’Veon Bell, because it won’t make Gordon a free agent. Gordon’s contract would toll into next year, and he’d be in the same position that he is now.
In 2012, then-Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew held out for all of training camp and the preseason, before blinking. The sooner Gordon blinks, the lower the bill will be when he finally walks through the door.