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Weird CBA Rules and the Roquan Smith Holdout

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Weird CBA Rules and the Roquan Smith Holdout

The Packers' opening game opponent, the Chicago Bears, have a "situation" on their hands.
Roquan Smith has not reported to training camp yet due to an impasse in his contract negotiations.  The new CBA was supposed to make signing rookies simple and quick, but the CBA has some truly weird rules.  First-round picks from the first pick through about pick number 24 or so customarily receive 4-year contracts that are fully guaranteed for injury, skill, and cap, so as the eighth pick Smith certainly is in line for a fully guaranteed deal.  However, some language can be negotiated.  
The CBA (Article 7, Section 3c) allows clubs and players to negotiate under what circumstances future fully guaranteed terms can be voided by teams if the player commits various infractions, even peccadilloes, and suspensions.  The famous case is Trent Richardson, who missed a walk-through practice during the 2014 playoffs because his girlfriend had emergency complications from her pregnancy.  Because Richardson failed to inform the team beforehand, the Colts cited that infraction as cause to void Richardson's otherwise fully guaranteed salary for 2015.  Apparently, the Colts hadn't planned to have Richardson on the 46-man active list for the playoff game anyway.  The Colts jumped at the chance to cut Richardson after the 2014 season and did not pay any of his $3 million salary that was scheduled for 2015.  The Colts were able to dump a player with a guaranteed salary without eating any dead money for a mere peccadillo.  Richardson filed a grievance, but there seems to be no reporting on what the result was.
Teams insert standard language that voids current and future guarantees if a player engages in certain behaviors, including PED usage, substance abuse, conduct that is detrimental to the team (which means almost any violation of a team rule) and personal conduct suspensions.  I tend to side with the NFL and Teams on these types of issues, but this particular rule seems outrageous to me.
Roquan Smith reportedly is particularly concerned about the new lowering of the helmet rule, since a suspension arising out of such conduct could lead to his guarantees for 2019 and beyond voiding automatically.  It seems to me that every player has an interest in this issue and that it is not limited to uncertainty over how NFL referees will enforce the new rule, given how capricious the NFL seems to be in handing down fines and suspensions regarding any number of on-field conduct and off-the-field issues as well.  The rule applies to veterans who have guarantees as well.
Teams can also seek a refund of signing bonuses already paid to the players, so even that is not sacrosanct. Teams usually have discretion as to whether to seek a "Forfeitable Salary Allocation" from players.  Section 9e has an exception, though: for violations of PEDs, Substance Abuse or failed drug tests, teams are required to try to collect the proportionate share of a player's signing bonus even though it was paid years ago.  If player X got an $8 million dollar signing bonus on a four-year contract, his proration would be $2 million per year.  If he were suspended for PEDs for four games in year three, the team is required to seek 4/17ths of his $2M signing bonus proration back.  That means in this example the player would have to pay the team about $470 thousand dollars and the team must seek it; that amount would be added back to the team's salary cap.
The Buffalo Bills already compromised with Tremaine Edmunds on this issue.  Edmunds is in camp.  Roquan Smith is not.  The public and media do not know the exact language Buffalo and Edmunds agreed upon, but since Smith and Edmunds have the same agent, Smith does. The Athletic has reported that Buffalo can still void Edmunds' guarantees, but only if he is suspended for a lot of games, but that site could not verify the precise number of games.  Buffalo can still void Edmunds' guarantees for off-the-field incidents and PED/Substance of Abuse suspensions, apparently.
Smith's absence from training camp likely helps us since Green Bay plays Chicago in game one this year, and every rep Smith misses in training camp hurts his development, particularly early in the season. 


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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (4) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Spock's picture

And now the Packers have their own situation. Reportedly Jake Ryan may be out for the year after seriously injuring his right knee. Sheesh.

Savage57's picture

I think Smith should take a stand on the issue*, and if the Bears don't capitulate, sit out the entire season.

*note. I don't care a lick about the issue, but anything that jacks up the Bears is a good thing, maybe the best thing.

Spock's picture

TGR, I always learn something from your CBA articles. I appreciate your explanations, especially of some of the more obscure rules. Thanks.

Johnblood27's picture

Maybe we should make the bares an offer for their malcontent cub.

Were down one Ryan...

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