No one is wrong in Bengals' contract stalemate with Trae Waynes
CINCINNATI — In life, especially in sports, we tend to take sides. Not many people can praise LeBron James, without someone bringing up Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant.
The moment you think Tom Brady's sixth Super Bowl solidified his place as the greatest ever, someone gives a list of reasons why he isn't the GOAT.
Sports debates are fun. Every fan has them. Naturally, we take sides on small, insignificant topics like LeBron vs M.J. and important issues like Colin Kaepernick vs the NFL.
The Bengals have gotten a lot of negative press over the past four years. They haven't had a winning season since 2015. They've struggled on the field, in the draft and didn't even participate in the first few weeks of free agency.
That changed this offseason. They were aggressive. Team President Mike Brown knew they had to make moves to show their fans that they wanted to win.
The Bengals committed nearly $150 million to eight free agents and A.J. Green this offseason. They added ascending players like D.J. Reader, Trae Waynes, Vonn Bell and Mackensie Alexander.
All four additions are not only going to start, but they're also expected to help build a winning culture in Cincinnati.
The relationship with at least one of those players is off to a rocky start. Waynes agreed to a three-year, $42 million deal with the Bengals in March.
He and his family moved to Cincinnati in May hoping to undergo a physical at a private practice so his deal could be finalized, but that hasn't happened. Players aren't able to undergo physicals at team facilities due to COVID-19. That's a league mandated rule. Waynes's agent was hoping that the Bengals would allow his client to take the physical at a private practice. That isn't the case.
“He moved to Cincinnati, bought a house there, brought his wife and two kids there for the sole purpose that he could drive down to doctor’s private office and get his physical and do a deal,” agent Brian Murphy told Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer. “He’s got no other reason to be in Cincinnati, because all the offseason workouts were via Zoom. But we thought if he went there, he could get the physical, and it turns out he can’t.”
The Bengals aren't the only organization in the league doing this. Most teams haven't officially signed their free agents or any of their draft picks due to the inability for players to take physicals at team facilities.
“We regret the challenges that have arisen this year with processing contracts due to coronavirus. The Bengals are very excited about adding Trae to the roster and are confident that he will be a good player here," Bengals vice president Troy Blackburn told Breer. "Unfortunately issues relating to coronavirus have made contract execution matters harder than anyone wishes. Hopefully agreements can be reached soon between the NFL and the NFLPA that allow the season to get underway, at which point these issues go away.”
Since the contract hasn't been finalized, Waynes hasn't received a penny of the $20 million he's scheduled to make this year. Due to the uncertainty surrounding the season, Murphy has advised his client to stay off of the football field until the deal is complete.
"I’ve advised Trae not to do any football drills, not to get out there on the field, certainly don’t do any live drills against other people," Murphy said. "And my hope is that he’s following my advice.”
There is no wrong side in this stalemate between Waynes's agents and the Bengals.
Murphy is trying to protect his client and make sure Waynes is in position to get the money he's owed. If Waynes were to get injured before finalizing his deal, then the Bengals could put him on the non-football injury list. That would allow them to withhold payment of his signing bonus until he passes a physical.
In that scenario, Cincinnati could also withhold his base salary while he's hurt. The Bengals could also try to back out of the deal altogether if Waynes were to get hurt, which is something Murphy would fight.
The team could also honor the deal if there's an injury, but that's not a chance Waynes's camp wants to take.
The Bengals committed over $125 in free agency. That is unprecedented. They want to do this right.
Neither side is wrong. Once Waynes shows up for training camp later this month, he'll undergo his physical and sign his contract. The same goes for Reader, Bell, etc.
Hopefully Waynes has found a way to stay in shape, otherwise the first few days of camp could be overwhelming.
The league already plans on cancelling two preseason games to give players more time to get into football shape after a virtual offseason.
Waynes is one of the many NFL players that could need more time to prepare for the 2020 season.
The Bengals aren't wrong for their approach and neither is Waynes's camp. This issue should solve itself later this month.