NFL holdouts have real leverage

The Titans, Niners and Eagles would be wise to sign these three players as soon as possible. US Presswire

Last week, the Carolina Panthers kicked off the free-agency period by re-signing running back DeAngelo Williams to a five-year, $43 million deal that includes $21 million in guarantees. Even while that deal turned out to be just the first move in a Steinbrenner-esque spree that had Carolina re-upping nearly every useful free agent from a 2-14 team, the Williams deal delivered smiles far outside of Charlotte.

Start in Tennessee.

In 2010, Williams ran for 361 yards on 87 carries, and played in just six games. He'll be entering his sixth NFL season, playing a position where the average career is half that.

Meanwhile, Titans RB Chris Johnson eclipsed Williams' totals by Week 6, and is now coming off a three-year stretch to start a career that, according to Football Outsiders' similarity scores, is historically most similar to Barry Sanders' 1990-92 opening stretch. Sure, invoking perhaps the NFL's most stylistically unique runner of all time should be a comparison poison pill, but the fact is -- running style or hair style -- Sanders and Johnson are in statistical company.

Johnson's financial company, on the other hand, isn't as awe-inspiring. If he doesn't get a new deal, CJ2K will make less than Oakland punter Shane Lechler in 2011.

Unless Williams' deal was just a sneaky way to keep Johnson's holdout lingering past Week 11, when the Titans visit the Panthers, it mainly reinforced the major leverage that Johnson now has.

But CJ isn't alone. He, Niners running back Frank Gore and Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson are all angling for proper compensation, whether they arrive in camp or not. The question is, if neither side gives in, how bad will the teams be hurt? Based on a statistical projection, the answer is simple: pretty badly. Let's look at each case with the help of an AccuScore simulation of each team with and without their stars.