Buffalo Bills training camp practices officially begin on Thursday, July 26th, but players and staff are already arriving at St. John Fisher college to set up. It’s a major opportunity for the newest Buffalo Bills to demonstrate their skills and begin moving up the depth chart, and there’s one rookie everyone wants to see: quarterback Josh Allen. The only issue is, as of Monday night, he was still Buffalo’s only unsigned rookie. What does that mean as training camp begins?
Why the “holdout” on Allen’s contract?
This could be caused by several possible reasons. Maybe Allen has been spending time in Wyoming, at home in California, or otherwise away from a place where he could put pen to paper. If that’s the case, then his contract will be a formality once he arrives in Rochester.
It’s also possible that his agent has been waiting for the dominoes to fall around Allen’s slot. With two quarterbacks selected above Allen, including one represented by Allen’s CAA agency, he may just be waiting for a precedent to be set by Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold.
There could also be a disagreement over contract terms. While all rookie contracts are fully guaranteed (and first round picks can earn a fifth year, which starts guaranteed for injury and vests into a fully guaranteed contract), one particular facet of the deal has stalled negotiations in the past. “Offset” language defines a situation where a player is cut before the end of his contract, then signs a new deal with a different team. Say the player were being paid $4 million before his cut, and he signed a new deal for $4 million with someone else. If his original contract contained offset language, his original team would be off the hook for paying that original $4 million, since the player was all set to earn that much on his new contract. If there were no offset language, the player would be able to double-dip and collect money from both teams.
Offset language led to Joey Bosa’s holdout in 2016, but it’s not known if this is the sticking point for Allen. With quarterback being such a lucrative position, it would be understandable if Allen were holding strong to demand an offset-free contract.
Can Allen still show up at camp?
There’s no league policy or team policy preventing an unsigned player from showing up at camp and participating. Veteran free agents, for instance, will swing through camp and work out with the hope of earning an offer. For unsigned rookies, it’s a similar situation. They’re allowed to come to camp, sleep in the dorms, and sit in on classroom sessions, if they want, and they could even train or practice, at their own risk.
For good reason, agencies with unsigned players tend to recommend that those players sit out of practices once training camp commences. The potential injury can quickly rewrite negotiations.
Will Allen show up at camp?
If his appearances at OTAs and the rookie minicamp were any indication, he’ll probably show up at training camp in some form, even if he’s receiving advice to sit on the sidelines until he’s signed on the dotted line. There hasn’t been any sign that this was a particularly acrimonious contract negotiation, and before he signed his contract on Monday, fellow rookie Saquon Barkley was planning to show up at training camp regardless of his job status. Still, at this point we’re still operating on conjecture; if Allen is spotted in Pittsford this week, you can feel hopeful. Otherwise, it might be time to start worrying.