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NFL Training Camp Notes: Who’s Holding Out? Holding In?

Every NFL Teams Biggest Needs for 2023

It’s been said again and again: the NFL is a business. That fact is apparent at the start of training camp when players test their value—and their organization’s patience—by holding out.

Here’s a look at which players looking for a new contract in 2022 decided to report to camp and which ones are holding out.

The True Hold-outs

Jessie Bates III

The Cincinnati Bengals ended one of the most successful seasons in their franchise’s history with a loss in the Super Bowl. That pill can be hard to swallow, but it would be better if they came to terms with star defensive back Bates.

Bates, a second-team All-Pro in 2020, had two interceptions and six passes defended during the Bengals’ unexpected run to the Super Bowl.

Despite his success, the Bengals might move on from Bates. After using the franchise tag to keep Bates for at least one more season, the Bengals used their first two draft picks on defensive backs.

It’s possible the team views Michigan standout and 31st overall pick Daxton Hill as a suitable replacement for Bates—who’s already earning the fifth highest salary of any safety in the NFL.

Orlando Brown Jr.

Brown Jr. is another star player saddled with the franchise tag this offseason. Brown Jr. will be key if the Chiefs want to return to the Super Bowl this season. That is if the team can make sure they have Brown Jr. on the field.

Brown Jr. has emerged as one of the league’s premier young pass-protectors while being voted to the Pro-Bowl the past three seasons. Despite earning unanimous All-American honors in 2017, Brown Jr. was somewhat of a question mark coming out of Oklahoma in 2018.

After falling to the third round of the 2018 NFL draft, the Maryland native turned the narrative around quickly, starting ten games for a division-winning Baltimore Ravens squad.

Four years and 48 starts later, Brown Jr. finds himself negotiating what is likely to be one of the NFL’s largest and most lucrative extensions for an offensive lineman.

Given what Brown Jr. has accomplished in his young career and what the Chiefs have on the line, it’s possible the two sides reach an agreement to keep the young star in Kansas City.

Players Who’ve Reported

Lamar Jackson

The heat has been turned up on the Ravens’ negotiations with their superstar quarterback since Kyler Murray’s new 230.5 million dollar extension. It would be nearly unprecedented for a player of Jackson’s caliber to hit free agency in his mid-20s, and the bidding war for his services would be intense. The Ravens shouldn’t want any part of that.

Jackson enters camp with quite a lot of negotiating power. Still, the polarizing quarterback kept things quiet when he reported to camp last Thursday. The former MVP’s focus appears to be solely on the upcoming season, in which the Ravens hope to be Super Bowl contenders.

Robert Quinn

Few NFL players in recent memory have turned back the clock with the kind of success Quinn had last season.

After earning Pro-Bowl honors in two of his first four years—including a 19-sack All-Pro season in 2013—Quinn spent six straight seasons as an edge rusher for the Cowboys, Bears, Dolphins and Rams.Last season, Quinn exploded. He recorded 18.5 sacks, four fumbles and 17 tackles for loss for a Bears’ defense that finished in the top five in regular season sacks.

Quinn held out of mandatory minicamps hoping to turn his standout season into a new contract. He still has three years left on a five-year, 70 million dollar contract, so with no movement on negotiations, Quinn reported for training camp on schedule.

Deebo Samuel

The hottest name to hold out has to be Samuel. The former 49ers wide receiver made waves when the news broke he was requesting a trade from the team that drafted him out of South Carolina in 2019.

Following a breakout year in which the young star recorded 1770 yards from scrimmage along with 14 total touchdowns, Samuel felt he was in line for an extension. But large financial commitments made to veterans Trent Williams, Jimmy Garoppolo, Fred Warner and George Kittle complicates giving Samuel a new deal.

With the team breaking in a new quarterback, it will be hard to let go of one of the league’s most dangerous offensive weapons.

D.K. Metcalf

Metcalf’s name has been at the center of trade rumors since Russell Wilson was traded in March, and he’s in the final year of his rookie contract. With a large payout likely coming his way, the only question is which owner will sign the checks.

Metcalf did not attend mandatory camps this summer, confirming suspicions he would hold out for a new deal. But, with the regular season on the horizon, the Seahawks’ deep threat has reported to camp.

It remains to be seen whether Metcalf will participate soon, or if he will “hold in” like some of his counterparts.

It’s Complicated

David Ojabo

Ojabo, a former Michigan standout, and 2022 second-round pick is the only rookie who did not report to training camp. Ojabo and the Ravens have not agreed to a final deal, although rookie contracts are somewhat predetermined.

After tearing his left Achilles tendon at his pro-day, Ojabo fell into the Ravens’ lap early in the second round. So, the team wasn’t expecting to have him this early anyway.

Nonetheless, some in the organization might be anxious to acclimate Ojabo to the team’s scheme, so he can hit the ground running when he does sign.

Roquan Smith

Despite Smith’s intention to hold out until the Bears offer him a satisfactory contract, the 25-year-old All-Pro reported to camp as scheduled.

That doesn’t mean he’ll be suiting up. As the NFL community learned last off-season, some players on rookie contracts can’t hold out of training camp without sacrificing a year of service time. Meaning those players stay one year away from attaining free agent status.

“Holding in” is a new strategy, so it remains uncertain if it will work in Smith’s case. Either way, Smith is essential to the Bears’ defense playing their best football.