In recent collective bargaining talks with the players' union, some NFL owners have proposed changes that would significantly strengthen the penalties for players who hold out in training camp, sources familiar with the negotiations said.
High-profile running backs Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys and Melvin Gordon of the Chargers missed all of training camp this summer over contract disputes with their teams. Elliott got a new deal right before the season, while Gordon continues to stay away. Other players, such as Jaguars defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue, skipped part of training camp over dissatisfaction with their contracts.
Concerned about future holdouts, some owners would like to increase the penalties for players who hold out. Currently, a team can fine a player up to $40,000 for each day of training camp missed and an amount equivalent to one week of the player's salary for each preseason game missed. It's unclear what specific changes the owners are proposing, but one source called some of the suggested changes "draconian." They could include significant increases in fine amounts or, possibly, changes to contract language that allows teams to void or amend contracts in cases of holdouts.
It appears unlikely the NFLPA would agree to changes that would hamper players' abilities to exercise their leverage in contract disputes without some significant financial concessions from the owners. Those could include changes to the revenue split, the minimum spending floor or, possibly, changes to the league's economic structure that would create more favorable ground for players and agents to negotiate more guarantees in contracts.
The owners and players have not held formal negotiating sessions on a new CBA since August, and there are no sessions currently scheduled. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith is making his annual visits to every team, and those visits are scheduled to run through Oct. 10, after which it's expected that player/owner negotiating sessions will resume.
The current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2020 season.