And then there was one. Bengals safety Jessie Bates became the only NFL player skipping training camp when Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. signed his $16.662 million franchise player tender last week.
The Bengals and Bates were unable to reach an agreement before the July 15 deadline for franchise players to sign multiyear contracts. By NFL collective bargaining agreement rules, the Bengals are prohibited from signing Bates long term until Jan. 9, a day after the 2022 regular season ends.
As an unsigned franchise player, Bates isn't subject to the CBA-mandated fine of $50,000 for each day of training camp missed. This financial penalty doesn't apply to unsigned draft picks, and players with restricted free agent, transition or franchise tenders who aren't under contract, like Bates, who skip training camp altogether or come late. Attendance isn't required because of the absence of a signed contract. Unsigned players aren't withholding services they are contractually obligated to perform.
Bates missing training camp isn't a surprise. During the offseason, there were reports that Bates had no intention of playing under his $12.911 million franchise tag. Boycotting training camp is the first step in that direction.
It is a rarity for franchise players to miss the entire season. The last time it happened before Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell in 2018 was with Chiefs defensive lineman Dan Williams in 1998. Bell sat out after receiving a franchise tender for a second straight year. He recently expressed some regrets about how he handled his situation in 2018.
Based on Bates' $12.911 million franchise tender, he would be forfeiting $717,278 of salary for each week of the 18-week regular season he missed. The Bengals would get immediate salary cap relief for each week Bates missed since his full franchise tag is counting on Cincinnati's books, although he is unsigned.
The deadline for Bates to sign is 4 p.m. ET on the Tuesday after Week 10's games, which is Nov. 15. Bates would be prohibited from playing during the 2022 season if still unsigned after this date.
Bell was in a different place financially than Bates because of playing the 2017 season on a $12.12 million franchise tag. Bates' $12.911 million franchise tag, his first, is more than twice as much what he made from his four-year rookie contract that expired after the 2021 season. Bates' career earnings to date from his NFL player contract are just over $6.225 million.