Back in 2015, Bleacherreport.com posted an article titled “20 Infamous Sports-Contract Holdouts: Who Won?” Here’s a list of the ones that have the most in common with the current deadlock between Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
Ken Dryden vs. Montreal Canadians (1973) – Dryden sat out the entire 1973-74 season, but then returned the following season, and wound up hoisting the Stanley Cup four more times.
John Riggins vs Washington Redskins (1980) – In the late ‘70s, bruising RB John Riggins demanded a raise, but the Redskins didn’t bat an eye. After sitting out the 1980 season, Riggins came back, but was never quite the same runner over his final five years.
Eric Dickerson vs Los Angeles Rams (1986) – Coming off his 2,105 rushing yards season in 1985, Eric held out for more pay. After he sat out the first two games, the Rams caved. Remarkably, five years later Eric held out again, this time against the Colts, and again he successfully forced that team’s hand.
Bo Jackson vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1986) The Bucs selected Bo with the No. 1 draft pick in 1986. Bo, who reportedly warned the Bucs not to draft him, proceeded to bail on the NFL and went instead to play ball with the Kansas City Royals. A year later, he re-entered the NFL draft, and signed on with the L.A. Raiders.
Mark Messier vs. Edmonton Oilers (1991) – It was headline news when the superstar became discontented with the Oikers – it apparently stemmed from the team trading away Adam Graves. His attitude eventually prompted the Oilers to trade him in 1991 to the New York Rangers. The trade was worth it for the player and the Rangers, who claimed a Stanley Cup in 1984. The Oilers, however, haven’t won one since Messier left.
Emmitt Smith vs. Dallas Cowboys (1994) – After being the league’s top rusher in 1993, Smith’s demands for more money were initially rebuffed by mega-rich owner Jerry Jones. But after the team started out 0-2, Jones served up a 4-year $13M contract – the highest ever for an NFL running back at the time. Jones did wind up with one more Super Bowl ring with Smith on board.
Sean Gilbert vs. Washington Redskins (1997) – Defensive tackle Gilbert rejected having the franchise tag being applied to him, choosing instead to sit out a year. After that, Washington traded him to the Carolina Panthers, where he got a $45.6M contract, but never justified that money in his last five years.
Alexei Yashin vs. Ottawa Senators, (1999) – The Ottawa Senators’ captain wanted out from under the final year of his contract. Both sides held their ground, and Yashin missed the entire season. The Senators then argued that since he didn’t actually play for the team, he owed the team another year of his services. He therefore returned for a final season with the Senators before finally being traded.
Philip Rivers vs. San Diego Chargers (2004) – Just traded by the Giants to the Chargers (for Eli Manning), Rivers held out for more money, but lost that battle. It also cost him a starting job, which paved the way for Drew Brees’s successful career.
Walter Jones vs. Seattle Seahawks (2005) – The Hall of Fame offensive lineman repeatedly complained of not being paid what he was worth, so when the Seahawks put the franchise tag on him in 2005, he sat out training camp. Eventually the Hawks relented and inked him to a 7-year $52M contract.
JaMarcus Russell vs. Oakland Raiders (2007) – After months of holding out, the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft signed a 6-year deal for $68M. Russell self-destructed, however, and only played in the NFL for three years – some view him as the biggest bust in draft history.
Darrelle Revis vs. N.Y. Jets (2010) – Revis held out from training for 35 days, demanding more money. Just before Week 1 of the 2010 season, he got what he wanted: a fresh 4-year $46M deal.
Chris Johnson vs. Tennessee Titans (2011) – Wanting more money, the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2009 held out heading into the 2011 season. The Titans quickly caved and gave him a 4-year deal at $53.5M. Johnson played for only two more years in Tennessee, and his production plummeted.
Kam Chancellor vs. Seattle Seahawks (2015) – After Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” defenders Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman received lucrative contracts, Chancellor was unhappy with the lesser extension he had previously signed. He held out but only for two weeks before returning to the field without his demands being met.
It’s no surprise there’s no shortage of magnificent players, and gargantuan egos, on the above list.
What transpired with Yeshin in Ottawa is apparently still true. I’ve read three sources that say that if Rodgers were to “retire” and sit out the 2021 season, the Packers would still retain rights to him for three years. That effectively rules out any (non-permanent) retirement option for Rodgers.
Despite what many are saying, I see very little leverage that Aaron can apply on the team,other than to get public sentiment overwhelmingly on his side – and that’s not been happening.
Should they lose their future hall of famer, the Packers are well positioned to transition to a run-dominant offensive attack while they work to get a replacement QB up to speed. In addition to having pro bowler Aaron Jones and stupendous power runner A.J. Dillon, they now have a gadget and sweeps option in Amari Rodgers.
Seventh-rounder RB Kylin Hill is intriguing as well: he’s versatile, has a pro-type physique and strength (5’ 10”, 212 or 214 pounds, 22 bench presses), hails from an SEC college, and has a decent 7.31 RAS – Jamaal Williams had only a 4.55 RA, while Aaron Jones surprised me with an impressive 9.21 RAS – how did he ever slip to the fifth round? Dillon sports a fine 9.16 RAS.
Hill was a four-year man at Mississippi State, though he opted out after three games last season. He was a workhorse in Starkville: as a junior he ran up 1,350 yards on the ground (5.6 ave.), and 1,530 total, – though on a team with a losing record. The Pack can also call upon little-noticed second-year man Patrick Taylor, Jr., who has a 7.14 RAS. There’s also Dexter Williams, the sixth-round pick in 2019 who has an RAS of 8.15. And though they lost center Corey Linsley, their current stable of run-blocking O-linemen might be more impressive, and is certainly deeper, than last year’s group.
Even if Rodgers departs, I can see the Packers making the playoffs on the strength of its run game.