NFL training camp is still a few weeks away, but some of the league’s best wide receivers are making news away from the field. The Dallas Cowboys’ Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas of the Denver Broncos and the Cincinnati Bengals’ A.J. Green are all without contracts for the 2016 season, and they could be headed for free agency in less than a year.
Bryant and Thomas completed their rookie contracts at the end of the 2014 season, but Dallas and Denver both placed the franchise tag on the top receivers, preventing them from becoming free agents this offseason. Green is in the final year of his deal, set to earn $10.1 million.
If Bryant and Thomas don’t agree to long-term contracts by Wednesday afternoon, they’ll be forced to play on one-year deals next season. Signing the tender would pay them both $12.82 million in 2015, but neither player can be fined for holding out of training camp or even the start of the regular season. There’s also a report by ESPN that the NFL players’ union will pursue collusion charges against the Cowboys and Broncos, if neither wide out signs a lengthy deal.
With the 2015 season approaching, below is a look at the contract statuses of some of the best wide receivers in football.
The Dallas Cowboys’ front office has contended that it’s not imperative for them to sign Bryant to a long-term contract this summer, but that might not be the case. The wide receiver announced on Twitter on Monday that he won’t play until he gets a new deal. It’s unknown if Bryant would only skip training camp, but his tweet followed an ESPN report that stated the All-Pro would be willing to miss regular season games.
Dallas and Bryant’s representatives have reportedly met once to discuss terms for a new deal as of Monday, but they don’t seem close to coming to an agreement. Bryant can sit out the first 10 weeks of the season before he’s not allowed to play at all in 2015. He can also negotiate a higher salary than this year’s $12.82 million tender.
Bryant has proven to be a top NFL receiver, averaging 91 catches, 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns per game over the last three years.
The situation in Denver might not be as dire as the one between Bryant and Dallas. Thomas hasn’t publicly threatened to hold out, though there are reports that he could skip training camp. According to multiple reports, a deal between Thomas and Denver isn’t likely before Wednesday’s deadline.
Mike Klis of 9NEWS in Colorado reports that the two sides have exchanged contract proposals. Denver has offered Thomas a deal that would give him the second-highest yearly salary of any wide receiver, paying him $12 million per year, as well as $30 million in guaranteed money over the life of the contract. But Thomas reportedly wants to be the highest paid player at his position, asking to make more than the $16.2 million a year that the Detroit Lions pay Calvin Johnson.
Thomas has averaged 99 catches, 1,494 yards and 12 touchdowns per season since 2012. The Broncos must decide if Thomas will be worth the money he’s asking for when Peyton Manning is no longer on the team.
There doesn’t seem to be much drama surrounding Green’s contract status. Even though he’s not guaranteed to make any money beyond this year, the wide receiver appears comfortable heading into the upcoming season without a new deal on the table.
"I don't get into all the 'I need a contract' stuff,” Green told ESPN.com last week. “I'm not here for money. I'm not broke. So I'm fine. I can wait until the end of the year to get a contract, but I know that time is coming."
Green could be a year away from finding himself in the same situation as Bryant and Thomas. While he’s looking for a big contract, the Bengals will have the option of placing the franchise tag on him. Green missed three games last season, but he still managed to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the fourth consecutive year.