Rick Osentoski/Associated Press
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted just about every facet of life over the past several months, NFL contracts included.
Albert Breer of SI.com reported Thursday that “one agent told me on Wednesday that a team exec leveled with him recently, and said they wouldn’t allow for a deal to be finalized because the owner feared the season could be canceled (if the pandemic worsens) and he didn’t want to pay out cash he may not be able to recoup.”
Breer used the example of Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Trae Waynes, who agreed to a three-year, $42 million deal with the team this offseason that included $15 million in guaranteed money. But the Bengals aren’t allowing their team doctor to perform physicals on their players at his private practice, and with NFL facilities remaining closed, that meant Waynes couldn’t have his physical with the team, and his contract isn’t finalized.
Hence, he’s still waiting on that $15 million.
It should be noted that Breer reported Waynes is “pretty sensitive to how his concern over a $15 million payment might come off, understanding the job situation in our country right now. In fact, that’s why he didn’t wind up talking to me for this story.”
Other teams have taken similar tactics, ostensibly to avoid paying out guaranteed money. There are no rules in the CBA against doing so, leaving players like Waynes stuck in limbo.
Waynes’ agent, Brian Murphy, told Breer he’s advised Waynes “not to do any football drills, not to get out there on the field, certainly don’t do any live drills against other people.”
“He signed a nice offseason contract to go to the Bengals, be the man in their secondary, make a major contribution, and so under ordinary circumstances, he’d be killing himself to get in the best shape possible. He did do all the Zoom calls. Obviously, there’s no physical activity there, and he’d really want to be in the best shape of life, so he can play the best football of his life. But because of the Bengals’ decision, he can’t do that.
“So yeah, he’s gotta be creative, he’s gotta find different ways to be at peak physical performance. But assuming he’s not doing the one-on-one drills, assuming he’s not battling other players, he’s just not gonna be where he otherwise would be in a normal year.”
It makes sense, though it could also lead to players hitting training camps at less than optimal shape and could produce injuries down the line. It’s not a great situation for players like Waynes.
But with cases of the coronavirus spiking in certain parts of the United States, the looming possibility of a delayed or canceled 2020 season can’t be ignored. That appears to have led some NFL teams to find creative ways to avoid paying out owed money.
It’s unlikely the league’s players and NFLPA will forget which teams did so, however.