Without a contract, Seattle Seahawks rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon is not participating in training camp, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.
The Seahawks selected Witherspoon with the No. 5 pick of April’s draft out of Illinois. He was expected to compete for a starting job. But for now, he’s the NFL’s only rookie holdout with Seahawks training camp practice starting Wednesday. The rest of the 259 players drafted this year have signed their contracts, per the report.
Holdouts by first-year players are rare in the era of the NFL rookie wage scale that slots contract values based on draft selection. As the No. 5 pick, Witherspoon is due a four-year contract valued at $31.8 million in guaranteed money. This is collectively bargained and non-negotiable. It’s not clear why the two sides haven’t yet agreed to terms.
Details of the contract are negotiable, and one or more of those details is holding this deal up. A common subject of negotiation in rookie deals is the distribution of signing bonuses. For instance, Houston Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud signed his contract earlier this week after the Texans agreed to pay the $23.38 bonus on his $36.3 million fully guaranteed contract up front.
Witherspoon’s signing bonus is slotted at $20.171 million. Again, this is non-negotiable. But when it’s paid is up for discussion. The Seattle Times reports that the Seahawks generally prefer to spread out signing bonus payments over the life of a contract. If that’s the case and Witherspoon wants his bonus up front, then that would explain the holdout.
Witherspoon did participate in offseason drills including OTAs, where players without contracts are covered for injury. But for now, he’s a no-show at camp as he seeks to maximize his deal.