There is an idea among football fans that if a team wants to retain a player, they can re-sign that player no questions asked. For the Denver Broncos, this idea hit close to home after losing Brock Osweiler, Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan and David Bruton to open free agency and almost losing C.J. Anderson to Miami.
There is no bigger myth than this idea. Appearing on NFL Network, Jackson said the Broncos could have kept himself, Osweiler and Trevathan had the team only approached them earlier.
Jackson also made the claim that the team could have retained them at a fraction of what they ultimately received on the open market. This statement is a bold lie and someone has to hold Jackson accountable for his comments.
In the case of Osweiler and Jackson, the team reached out to initiate contract talks prior to the midway point of last season. In both cases, the players and their representatives wanted to let the season play out to be able to maximize their value, which they did. In the case of Danny Trevathan, the team never had any intention of retaining him — due to his frightening injury history among other factors.
This practice is not uncommon among players in the NFL. Many often “bet on themselves”, rather than sign a contract when their value isn't at its peak. One example is another Bronco, a MVP Bronco, Von Miller. Denver had interest in extending Miller prior to the season, as they were aware anything he did during the season would increase his price tag.
When players and teams are unable to reach an agreement in contract negotiations for extensions, it is more often than not due to the fact that players believe they would fetch richer contracts on the open market with a great season.
This brings us to the idea of hometown discounts. Chris Harris, Jr. and Derek Wolfe both took contracts that were below market value fueling the idea that more players in Denver should take hometown discounts. Harris and Wolfe are both comfortable with the Broncos organization, are comfortable in Denver, Colorado and value the direction and winning culture of the organization.
Not every player is like Harris or Wolfe. These two are the exception to the rule.
After back to back huge seasons, Demaryius Thomas was hit with the franchise tag. After holding out, the Broncos and Thomas reached an agreement at the last minute that made him one of the highest paid receivers in the NFL.
Football players in the NFL are selfish, as they should be. The average career length in the NFL is just under four years, so chances are a contract signed this offseason could be their last. Players feel they have to maximize their guaranteed dollars for them and their families.
With David Bruton, the Broncos made a similar offer to the one he signed in Washington to retain his services, but Bruton values an opportunity to start, something he would not have been awarded in Denver with Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward in place, so he signed with Washington.
In the case of Osweiler and Jackson, it is clear both players preferred the financial security offered elsewhere to the organization, city and culture the Broncos have cultivated in Denver that would have led them to taking hometown discounts.
But this idea that they wanted to be here and would have been had the team approached them earlier is absolute fiction. The reason these players are not Broncos is because they felt they were worth more than the Broncos were willing to pay or were offering at any point.
The NFL, at the end of the day, is a business — not only a business for teams but for players as well, who we easily forget are employees. When choosing a job in a certain field, prospective employees weigh many factors and that is no different in the NFL and it should be understood that the employers (teams) do not hold all the cards.
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