NFL training camp is finally upon us. Guess what that means: Contract disputes are out in the open.
With players returning to practice facilities this week, eyes have been fixed on a trio of stars who are in skirmishes with their franchises over the amount of money they feel they deserve.
49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel, Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf and Chargers safety Derwin James each came into camp dissatisfied with what their respective teams have been offering them. So they aren’t participating in practice.
In other words, they’re conducting a “hold-in.”
Seahawks’ WR DK Metcalf has joined 49ers’ WR Deebo Samuel and Chargers’ S Derwin James as players who are at training camp but not practicing due to unresolved contract issues, per sources.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 27, 2022
Here’s what you need to know about the newest phenomenon taking the NFL by storm.
What is a ‘hold-in’?
A “hold-in” is when a player arrives at training camp on time but chooses not to participate in practices because of a contract dispute. It differs slightly from a holdout — when a player avoids the team facility and team activities entirely in the hope of forcing a better contract or a trade.
The origin of the term is a bit murky. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio said that it used to describe “a player who either embellished or fabricated an injury in order to not practice.”
Either way, it seems hold-ins are all the rage in the league, Last year, Seahawks players Jamal Adams, Duane Brown and Quandre Diggs all enlisted the strategy in the hope of a better deal.
The logic behind the hold-in is simple, in theory. In the olden days, players would hold out, teams would fine them and, once the holdout ended, teams would waive the fine fines. Beautiful stuff.
But as the NFL contracts have gotten fatter, so, too, have the fines. Now, players can be docked up to $50,000 per day missed. And that fine forgiveness? The NFL’s current collective bargaining agreement nixed that, meaning players have to eat the fine entirely (unless they are under a rookie contract).
That makes the decision quite simple for the league’s biggest stars: clock in without actually clocking in. Show up to training camp every day, stay out of activities and collect a check. Rinse and repeat.
Deebo Samuel, WR, 49ers
Samuel and the Niners have been at odds ever since the All-Pro requested a trade in April. A host of reports came out in the aftermath of the request, with some indicating that Samuel was frustrated with his role in the offense while others implying that Samuel wasn’t happy with his contract.
Either way, in an offseason where numerous star wide receivers have signed long-term deals, Samuel remains put . . . for now.
MORE: Deebo Samuel trade rumors
The 49ers reportedly have no interest in trading their Swiss Army knife, with general manager John Lynch going as far to say earlier in the offseason he would “be a fool to trade” Samuel.
Lynch provided updates on the situation Tuesday. He indicated that, although things hadn’t quite reached a conclusion, the 49ers are more optimistic now than they were in April that they can retain Samuel.
“We’ve had really productive and substantive talks,” Lynch said, per CBSSports.com. “I don’t want to get everyone all excited that something is imminent, because we’re not there yet. (We’re) really hopeful that in the near future, we’ll be able to announce something that is exciting for everyone involved.”
For now, it’s a watch-this-space situation.
DK Metcalf, WR, Seahawks
Seattle is in a much different, much more volatile situation than its NFC West rival. For starters, it traded Russell Wilson this offseason and is seemingly headed for a rebuild.
One could imagine that the 24-year-old Metcalf could factor into that rebuild, but the Ole Miss product received fewer touches (76) last year compared to his career-best 2020 season (83). He didn’t seem to be nearly as much of a target even while snagging 12 receiving touchdowns.
RUMORS: ‘Huge’ new Samuel, Metcalf contracts could be next after McLaurin extension
And now Metcalf hasn’t received a contract offer to his liking. With Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, A.J. Brown, Stefon Diggs and Terry McLaurin all receiving lucrative deals in the offseason, it seems Metcalf hasn’t taken too kindly to Seattle’s negotiating position.
Coach Pete Carroll told reporters that the team is working on offering Metcalf a suitable deal, but he also said that he expected the fourth-year player to have signed by now.
Derwin James, S, Chargers
Finally, there’s the 25-year-old James, who has quietly established himself as one of the game’s best defensive players in his three seasons on the field (he missed the 2020 season with a knee injury).
James is without a new contract, or at least not yet, as he begins his walk year. Coach Brandon Staley seemed relatively chill about the matter, saying that the sides were getting closer to a deal.
James must have been looking at the contract Minkah Fitzpatrick got from the Steelers as the model for what he’s seeking. Fitzpatrick, selected just six picks ahead of James in the 2018 NFL Draft, signed an extension with an average annual value (AAV) of $18.4 million, highest for a safety.
Pro Football Focus’ Ari Meirov reports that it’s expected James’ new deal will surpass that figure and make James the highest-paid safety.
Better get your popcorn ready.