The collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association is loaded with weights designed to keep players from holding out of camp. Teams are allowed to fine players $40,000 each day they don’t show up for training camp and the preseason, which means Williams is already facing $280,000 in fines for sitting out the first seven days of practice. That number could grow to over $1 million if he does not show the rest of the summer, and he could lose an additional $1 million-plus in guaranteed bonuses.
Williams and the team remain locked in a staring contest that stretches back to the spring, when Williams missed minicamp over what Coach Jay Gruden called Williams’s frustration with the way the team’s medical staff handled a growth on his head that turned into a health scare. Two people with knowledge of Williams’s thinking say that while the health issue was a factor (along with broader concerns with the team’s medical staff), it was merely one of several things that led him to the point of wanting to either be traded or receive a new contract that would provide better financial security. Williams has two years remaining on his five-year, $66 million deal, but his base salary isn’t guaranteed in the final year.
According to a person with knowledge of the Redskins’ thinking, Williams asked the team to be traded June 1. Washington officials decided a trade would not be practical and turned down the request. The person said Williams then asked for more money, which the team also declined, and the two sides have remained in a standoff since.
The team’s strategy, the person said, is to let the fines add up and force Williams to return, at which point the team would welcome him back.
A report in the Athletic on Wednesday said Washington is looking to trade Williams, but a person with knowledge of the Redskins’ decision-making said the team doesn’t want to trade Williams now and is not actively shopping him to other teams.
Williams has not spoken about his battles with the team or responded to requests for comment. Gruden and offensive tackle Morgan Moses, Williams’s good friend on the team, both say they expect him to return to the club at some point, even as others suggest that the relationship is severely damaged and he does not want to return.
“It’s not a contract thing,” former teammate D’Angelo Hall said during an NFL Network telecast this week. Hall said money could help solve the impasse but insisted Williams’s holdout is more about principle.
The holdout is also costly. Two other CBA clauses kicked in this week that could take hundreds of thousands of dollars more from the roughly $1.5 million that make up this year’s portion of an $8.5 million signing bonus he got when he signed his current deal in 2015. The first of those clauses, activated Wednesday, allows the Redskins to take back 15 percent of the prorated bonus. The other, which started Thursday, permits the team to pull out an additional 1 percent of the prorated bonus each day until the fines total 25 percent.
In total, Williams has lost more than $500,000 in fines and pullbacks from his bonus.
One person with knowledge of Williams’s thinking said the player’s “finances are good” and added, “Some things are more important than money.”
On the field, the Redskins continue without their seven-time Pro Bowl tackle. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders left tackle Donald Penn signed with the team Wednesday morning and has practiced the past two days, working mostly with the third and fourth teams. Another hastily signed tackle, Corey Robinson, and second-year player Geron Christian have had the most work with the first team.
Penn said he is close to Williams and the two talked a long time before Penn agreed to fly to Richmond this week. He did not disclose the details of that conversation other than to say they discussed the possibility of Penn, who said he wants to compete for a starting job at left tackle, being a swing tackle, filling the role opened when Ty Nsekhe signed with the Buffalo Bills during the offseason. He did not indicate if that meant Williams was planning to return, forcing Penn from a potential starting spot to the swing role.
“We’re on the same page,” Penn said.
Williams could lose another 25 percent of his prorated bonus if his holdout goes until the start of the season, and he could lose it all if he doesn’t report by Week 4.
Teams aren’t obligated to keep the money, however, and fines can be rescinded when an impasse is settled.
Jerry Brewer, Liz Clarke and Kareem Copeland contributed to this story.