Yesterday, Pro Bowl wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, failed to report Houston Texans training camp with the purpose of holding out for a better contract. He (rightfully) wants to be paid in a manner commensurate with his contributions to the team and says that he will not return until a new contract has been worked out. At 24, he became the centerpiece of an otherwise lackluster Texans’ offense, piling up 111 catches for 1,521 total yards, good for third-best in the NFL. Hopkins was the only bright spot on an offensive unit that saw four different quarterbacks take the field, and he became the first player to ever have 100 yards receiving from those four different QBs.
For someone who is as important to the offense as he is, the $1 million base salary that he is earning under his current contract for the 2016 season means that he is grossly underpaid. In a field of work where tomorrow is never guaranteed (like the contracts) and the future is never certain, NFL players must maximize their value when they have the opportunity. DeAndre Hopkins realizes that there might not ever be another chance to get paid like he can right now so he is gambling on himself and hoping that the team realizes how important he is.
The DeAndre Hopkins situation got me thinking about which other players are being way underpaid in the league right now. Here are my top candidates to be the next to holdout for a new contract. Maybe it won’t happen until next year, but these guys are definitely being underpaid, or at least they think they are.
This is the big one. Derek Carr is one of the best young QB talents in the league and he is making a laughable amount of money for someone who is future of the franchise and made a Pro Bowl last season. His $733,346 base salary is less than guys like Kyle Van Noy, Shaun Draughn, and Bishop Sankey. The added $741,691 in bonuses helps a little, but the fact is that he is far underpaid compared to other quarterbacks who have a similar level of talent. There’s no doubt that the Raiders will pay him his due eventually, but we all know how volatile of an environment the NFL is for its players and their worth. He might be best served to holdout now and try to get that paper.
Michael Bennett has been complaining about his current contract situation for a minute now. In his opinion he is better than the 26th best defensive end in the NFL, which is where his current base salary is on the spectrum of DE contracts. Bennett hinted at the idea of a holdout earlier this offseason for the second year in a row, but he also showed up to training camp this weekend, so it seems like he might not really have the stomach to go through with it. Either way, if you talk about the idea of holding out, then there is at least a chance that you’d do it. That’s why Michael Bennett made it on this list.
This dude came out of nowhere for the Arizona Cardinals and finished his rookie campaign last season with 13 total touchdowns, a rookie record for the NFL’s oldest franchise. From the time he entered the starting lineup in week 13 until the end of the season, no other player in the league averaged more yards from scrimmage per game than Johnson’s 131.7. He is just as dangerous in the pass game as in the run game and his playmaking ability means that he will quickly silence doubters this coming season and hang on to the starting role over Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson. And he is making peanuts compared to other star running backs. The fact that the Cardinals were able to snag him in the third round of last year’s draft means that he will make an average of just $729,843 a season until he is an unrestricted free agent in 2019. That won’t happen. Look for David Johnson to light the world afire once more this season and get himself a fat new contract next offseason.
The Oakland Raiders have a pretty good problem on their hands. They have two young stars who they are underpaying right now. That means they are getting a ton of value for their dollar in two very important positions. Khalil Mack was selected to the Pro Bowl last year and holds the Raiders franchise record for sacks in a game (5) against the Broncos. Mack’s average of $5.1 million per year ranks 31st among outside linebackers and he won’t be a free agent until 2018. With the physical demands of playing outside linebackers and heightened injury risk that comes with playing such a violent position, it would not be at all surprising to see Khalil Mack holdout for a new contract next offseason if he plays as well this year as he did last. The Raiders would be smart to start preparing for the idea of having to pay both Derek Carr and Khalil Mack very soon.
Who do you think is a serious candidate to holdout for a new contract in the near future? Leave your answer in the comments below or tweet us @ScoreBored_SBS.