SANTA CLARA – Players in the NFL do not have the advantage of guaranteed contracts, such as those in the NBA. But more and more, NFL players are leveraging their star status to bounce from one team to another.
And cornerback Richard Sherman, the 49ers player representative and a vice president on the NFL Players Association’s executive committee, views that as a positive all the way around.
“I’m sure the owners don’t like that,” Sherman said. “They don’t want to give up any power or for players to flex their power, but I think it’s good for the game. It’s good for the game to have some differences.”
Wide receiver Antonio Brown forced a trade from Pittsburgh to the Raiders this spring. Then, he got his way out of Oakland in order to land with the New England Patriots. The Steelers this week acquired Miami defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick after the second-year safety demanded a trade from the Miami Dolphins.
Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey has requested a trade out of Jacksonville. Washington offensive tackle Trent Williams and Chargers running back Melvin Gordon are high-profile holdouts. Former Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell sat out all of 2018 in order to hit free agency, where he landed a lucrative contract with the New York Jets.
Sherman said he believes the player movement is good for the game because it is different than what the NFL has experienced in the past. Until recently, it was rare for high-profile players to switch teams at the heights of their careers.
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Now, marquee players -- such as Odell Beckham Jr. and Khalil Mack who were traded to Cleveland and Chicago, respectively – are moving with more frequency for ample draft-pick compensation.
“People are starting to realize the first-round picks aren’t as valuable as they used to be,” Sherman said. “It’s what can you do for me now? Rather than waiting and developing a player who may develop or may not develop, you’re getting players that you know who they’re going to be. You know what they are.”
Sherman said an added benefit of players exercising their rights to get out of bad situations is it should inspire NFL teams to treat their players better in order to foster loyalty.
“I think players are becoming more volatile and more frustrated and more angry, and (they are) doing their best to get out of those situations,” Sherman said. “So, hopefully, these organizations treat these players better and players move forward and it works out well for both sides.”