Colin Kaepernick may have some company.
Free-agent center JC Tretter, who also happens to be the NFL Players Association’s president, remains available, in the middle of August. Former Browns teammate Joel Bitonio suggests that Tretter’s role as a vocal advocate for player safety could be contributing to his ongoing unemployment.
“When you have a guy that’s top-five, top-10 at center in the league and he’s not on a roster, you know, and he’s the NFLPA president and maybe some of the owners don’t appreciate what he brings to the table on certain topics when he’s trying to protect player safety and things of that nature, it seems a little suspicious to me,” Bitonio said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “But, again, I don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors. I don’t know what his conversations have been with teams and stuff, but just from an outside perspective usually players that are close to the top of their game get picked up. Teams want to win in this league. So it’s an interesting topic, for sure.”
Teams want to win in this league. That was the excuse the Commissioner repeatedly gave for teams not signing Kaepernick. Teams want to win, so they would never fail to pursue a player who can help them win. (Unless they’re tanking, of course.)
The Browns cut Tretter earlier this year, saving more than $8.235 million in cap space. The Browns also lost center Nick Harris for the season on Friday night. The Bucs previously lost center Ryan Jensen, possibly for the year. There has been no serious suggestion that either team will sign Tretter.
None of this has stopped Tretter from doing his job for the NFL’s players. On Saturday, Tretter sounded off on the condition of the playing surface at Soldier Field.
A fourth-round pick in 2013, Tretter spent four years with the Packers and five with the Browns. He ranked 89th on the Pro Football Focus list of the top 101 players of 2021.
Would it be crazy to think that owners are shying away from Tretter because he has become an agitator to the oligarchs? Nope. That’s another reason why high-profile (and highly-compensated) quarterbacks should be more involved in union leadership. They’re far less likely to be blackballed, and they’re far more likely to take command of the rank and file if/when a line must be drawn in the sand — even if it means a work stoppage.
For now, it makes sense to pay attention to what happens with Tretter. If the goal is to keep him out of the league because he helps run the union, ignoring it makes it easier for the owners to pull it off.