Players from two NFL organizations — the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks — jointly announced Tuesday they will not participate in the voluntary portion of the 2021 offseason workout program, slated to kick off league-wide next week.
Additional teams are expected to follow suit at the behest of NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and president JC Tretter, center for the Cleveland Browns, both of whom advised players to skip in-person practices due to ongoing concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The initiative looms especially large for the Dallas Cowboys, who’ve had the most players (25) enter their facility of any team this offseason.
As ESPN’s Todd Archer tabulated, there’s more than $5 million hanging at stake in the weeks ahead, significant dents to the respective pocketbooks of Dallas’ highest-paid stars, including Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.
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If the NFLPA gets “its way,” Archer wrote, Prescott and Elliott — along with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, wide receiver Amari Cooper, linebacker Jaylon Smith, and offensive linemen Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and La’el Collins — would each stand to forfeit $500,000 from their base salaries due to contract de-escalators that require at least 84.375% participation in the Cowboys’ offseason program. Others face similar, if less consequential, situations.
Tight end Blake Jarwin, linebacker Tarell Basham and cornerbacks Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis have $250,000 de-escalators. Kicker Greg Zuerlein, cornerback C.J. Goodwin, tackle Ty Nsekhe and defensive ends Brent Urban and Carlos Watkins have $100,000 de-escalators. Safety Darian Thompson has a $50,000 de-escalator.
Defensive end Randy Gregory doesn’t have a de-escalator like the other 18 players, but would forfeit the $180,000 offseason workout bonus that is part of the one-year extension he signed last year.
Prescott is scheduled to earn “just” $9 million in 2021 salary as part of the four-year, $160 million deal he inked in March, which included a record-setting $66 million signing bonus and $75 million year-one payout.
The NFL’s richest running back, Elliott is guaranteed $9.6 million for the upcoming campaign. His 2022 base salary ($12.4 million) became fully guaranteed last month.
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Pro Football Talk’s Charean Williams transcribed in full the memo sent Tuesday by Smith and Tretter to all NFL players urging them to boycott in-person activities until the coronavirus is further contained.
“We have been in regular contact with the NFL on negotiations over a virtual offseason,” the memo reads, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Media. “As we have shared with your Executive Committee and Board, it is clear that neither side wants to move off their respective position. As we have made clear throughout bargaining: The COVID status in the country is as perilous as it was at this point last year; a number of players recently tested positive at team facilities. COVID weekly positive rates are as high, if not higher than, at this point last offseason; and NFL players who contracted COVID last season can become infected again.
“We believe that having the same offseason rules as last year is in the best interest of . . . the players and gives us the best chance of completing a full NFL season in 2021.
“As you know, other than minicamps, all offseason workouts are completely voluntary despite some of the language used by the clubs in recent days. And, while the CBA allows the teams to host mandatory minicamps, we believe the league should make them virtual just like last season.
“It is the recommendation of the NFLPA based on our medical experts’ advice that if the voluntary offseason program is in person, players should not attend. Therefore, as teams host calls to discuss these issues we urge that all players consider their own health and safety, make a personal decision about attending voluntary workouts and take into consideration the unanimous recommendation of the NFLPA COVID committee that we have an entirely virtual offseason.
“Please let your Player Director know what the consensus is of your teammates regarding their individual decision about the voluntary offseason period. We will let you know what we hear regarding minicamps and training camp structure and schedule.”
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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL