Long holdouts looming
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The holdouts from two of the AFC South's elite offensive players have merit, but no leverage. Their current deals cripple both their ability to push the team and to appeal to the public. Andre Johnson is one of the league's premier wide receivers, but his deal has him signed through 2014 giving the team little reason to cave to his demands. Similarly, Chris Johnson won't hit the market until at least 2013. Andre Johnson (and to a lesser extent Chris Johnson) are also victims of their own success in previous negotiations. That Johnson makes $6-7 million a year to go with the $15 million in guarantees on his extension when most WRs of his caliber make 9-10 million isn't going to stir up mass outrage. Chris Johnson is still on his rookie contract for a pick outside the top 10, making his deal rather pedestrian by NFL standards. Still, while a $550K salary is little by NFL standards he has pocketed $7 million in guaranteed money.
Johnson and Johnson seem likely to repeat the drama of Anquan Boldin. Boldin was publicly unhappy with his contract for what seemed like longer than he'd even been in the league, but signed through 2010, he was unable to force any action from the Cardinals until the final year of his deal, when the Cards traded him before he fled in free agency. With only holdouts and an eventual flight in free agency to threaten teams, players with several years left on their deals really have little they can do to motivate their teams to pay them what they believe they are worth.
Two possible reasons for the push from such a poor bargaining position have to do with the timing. The final year of the Collective Bargaining Agreement is upon us and both players are at peak ages for their position. With a possible lockout looming after this season a new signing bonus would do a lot of ease their minds of financial worries, and both players would very much like to be signed to a deal that pays them for their physical peak, but extends at that inflated rate into the downswing of their career (while both their teams were able to get them signed at a pre-peak rate, through their peak years). With little leverage they are unlikely to get the new deals they want, but with legitimate gripes and a possible lockout and an inevitable decline in the future they are just as unlikely to drop their demands anytime soon.
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