Despite the retirement of Rob Gronkowski and numerous free agency departures, the New England Patriots’ offseason lacks drama compared to last year’s — or what other teams around the league are experiencing. Take three of the AFC’s contenders, for example, who are headed towards training camp with questions about some of their best and most valuable players.
Houston Texans: DE Jadeveon Clowney
In early March, the Texans placed the franchise tag Clowney to prevent the first overall pick of the 2014 draft from hitting free agency. Needless to say that he was not happy about it: the 26-year-old has yet to sign the tag and it is becoming increasingly likely that he will skip parts if not all of Houston’s training camp. After all, the deadline to sign franchise players to long-term deals came and went yesterday without Clowney receiving a new contract.
If the three-time Pro Bowler indeed holds out, one of the better teams in the conference — and a team the New England Patriots will face in week thirteen of the regular season — may have to start the season without one of its best defensive players.
Los Angeles Chargers: RB Melvin Gordon
The Chargers picked up the option in Gordon’s contract last offseason, triggering an additional fifth year worth a fully guaranteed $5.6 million. The 26-year-old, who led L.A. both in yards from scrimmage and touchdowns scored in 2018, has no intentions on playing under these circumstances: Gordon has reportedly told the Chargers that he will not report to training camp until he is given a new deal.
Furthermore, Gordon is apparently demanding a trade — which adds another layer of intrigue to the situation. Whether or not the Chargers meet one of the demands remains to be seen, but the former first-round draft pick holding out could impact the club’s offensive fire power this season and as a result its potential to fight for the AFC’s top playoff seed.
Kansas City Chiefs: WR Tyreek Hill
While the Chargers have to deal with difficult contract negotiations, the Chiefs will have to wait on the league to make a decision about All-Pro wideout Tyreek Hill. The story is well known by now: Hill was involved in an investigation about alleged child abuse, with audio recordings painting an unfavorable picture of the 25-year-old. The criminal case against one of the NFL’s best pass catchers is no longer active, however.
The NFL, meanwhile, is conducting its own investigation into the matter. It has yet to announce its decision, but the expectation is that Hill will be allowed to participate in training camp. That being said, he could still be given a suspension under the ‘conduct detrimental to the league’ stipulation in the collective bargaining agreement. If Hill does get suspended, the AFC runner-ups could have to start the 2019 season without one of their top offensive weapons.