Alvin Kamara May Put Free Agency Status in Jeopardy

Alvin Kamara, scheduled to earn $2.133 million in the final year of his rookie contract, has apparently missed the last few days of camp according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Kamara’s decision could put him in an odd spot if the Saints, who only have around $3 million in disposable cap space, do not extend Kamara. The CBA has rules regarding unexcused absences from the team and a violation of the rules will strip a player of an accrued season toward free agency.

The more well known rule states that a player who does not report to camp on time will lose an accrued season. This is why hold outs are not common in the first four years of a players career. The second rule concerns the player who reports to the team and then holds out. This is open to interpretation however as the player must miss a “material period of time” to lose an accrued season.

What is a material period in the NFL? I am sure a team would argue a day. I’d argue six days if we are talking about the preseason. Players are allowed to miss five days of camp and not be subject to forfeiture in a different section of the CBA which at least somewhat implies that could be the threshold.

However it’s important to understand that the rules regarding accrued seasons is meant to be more harsh than forfeiture provisions and in general the NFL is very harsh on players holding out as it pertains to fines. Kamara for instance could be fined $40,000 for each day missed. In any event the accrued seasons question could be answered in a hearing after he returns to practice.

This is a risky play by Kamara because he would lose his unrestricted free agent status if he loses an accrued year. His situation is different than all the first round picks who have held out because they have five year contracts so they all have one accrued year they can give up. Running back’s have a hard enough time finding money in free agency and it would be even harder to find money when you need a team willing to part with a 1st or 2nd round draft pick to sign you. The difference between a RFA tender and franchise tag would likely be at least $3.5 million for Kamara.

As I have talked about before players like Kamara are impacted by the lack of success of the big money running backs after signing extensions. While a few are out there who may change the narrative, the fact is the first two who reset the pay scale, Todd Gurley and David Johnson, were both failures and that scares other teams. The running back salary crash of the early 10’s was all related to failures of big ticket player after big ticket player at the position.

Kamara situation is made even more difficult when you consider that the Saints have limited cap space this year and are millions over the salary cap in 2021. Many may see this year as the last run for the Saints before they move on in a post Drew Brees world and rebuild their team. Would they really want a $13 million a year running back to rebuild around? By holding out he is putting a lot of faith that the Saints want to do that. I’m not sure they are.

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