A few years ago, the catch gave way to “catch”. And for good reason. The 2020 collective bargaining agreement makes it more expensive for players under contract to sit out training camp until they get what they want.
Despite the new-age costs associated with under-contract players failing to participate in training camp, Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones has dusted off the old-school way to get more. He’s away, and he’s apparently willing to pay.
Under Section 42, Section 1(b)(vi) of the 2020 CBA, Jones (as a player under his second contract with the Chiefs) faces a “mandatory fine of $50,000 per day.” And by “mandatory”, the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed it would be mandatory.
“For the avoidance of doubt, such fines shall be mandatory and shall not be reduced in amount or waived in whole or in part by the Club, but shall be paid by the Player or deducted by the Club as provided in Section 5(b) of this Article,” the CBA states.
The daily $50,000 clock starts on the reporting date and continues until the Sunday before the first game of the regular season. It was six weeks. That’s $2.1 million.
Jones clearly didn’t care. He’s trying to earn the kind of salary that will cut $2.1 million over the next few years. While the Chiefs can no longer waive the fine (teams quietly do so), Jones can ask for enough to cover the fine as much as he wants.
So Jones preferred to stay away instead of being exposed and “caught”. Even if he had avoided all the penalties, he would have lost the benefit of the foreign exchange that would have come from not being there. Once he is there, it is very difficult to leave as per CPA norms. Once he got there, the Chiefs knew that if a new deal didn’t work out, they would let him off the field.
Finally, remember that there are two contracts that apply to Jones’ work before Chiefs fans who don’t care about Jones’ efforts to receive fair treatment despite his talent for substantial compensation and want to complain that he’s violating his contract. First, the contract between the player and the team. Second, the contract between all players and all teams. The latter gives Jones the right to sit out training camp if he’s willing to pay the price.
So, if Jones is willing to pay the price (or the Chiefs can get the price back through a new contract), Jones can generate leverage in a formal and systematic way (unlike, Fake an injury) by staying away until he gets what he deserves.
Not every player can pull off something like this. Jones is talented and important, with players like Quinnen Williams, Jeffery Simmons, Dexter Lawrence, and Daron Payne clearly trying to get closer to Aaron Donald’s $31.6 million annual average than the $22.5 million to $23.5 million deals this year.