ENGLEWOOD -- As DaeSean Hamiltion sat on the verge of a new future with a new team, reality clobbered him over the head Friday.
The veteran wide receiver suffered a potentially serious knee injury, a source confirmed, nixing a trade that was in place and leaving him exposed to losing millions. Hamilton hurt his knee away from the team facility, so the club does not have to honor his contract. The former Penn State standout was due $2.1 million this season and is facing a possible torn ACL and long recovery.
The Broncos were expected to cut ties with Hamilton on Friday either through waiving him or a trade. A deal took shape this afternoon but is now off the table. Hamilton has not worked out at UCHealth Training Center this offseason, following the advice of the NFLPA to stay away in protest of COVID-19 protocols, but more specifically the length of the offseason programs.
I understand NFLPA's stance on wanting to shorten the offseason, especially with the addition of a 17th regular season game. However, the union needs to protect players with insurance or war chest of money if they continue to advise them to stay away. Former right tackle Ja'Wuan James, who was cut Friday as a vested veteran with post June 1 designation with a non-football injury, and Hamilton remain in line to potentially lose millions.
"NFLPA if (you're) gonna advise all of us we need you to have our backs on the other end of this," James tweeted in response to my tweet above.
Hamilton becomes the second Broncos player hurt without the protection of the team's insurance. James who had been working out at the facility before the NFLPA's stance, ruptured his Achilles earlier this month. The Broncos placed the veteran on the reserve/non-football injury list, ending his career in Denver.
James was due $9.85 million this season, and the Broncos do not intend to pay him. However, they are not expected to pursue $3 million of his $12 million signing bonus. James, who said his surgery went well and he was "remaining positive," is expected to file a grievance. Hamilton could as well if his contract is not honored.
"I was saddened and disappointed with what happened with Ja'Wuan. We had to go get some guys. We signed guys who have played in the league. it will set up good competition," said coach Vic Fangio on the signings of Bobby Massie (one-year, $4 million) and Cam Fleming (one year, $3.6 million).
James, and presumably Hamilton, became a tennis ball in the labor rift volleys between the NFLPA and the league. Last month, the union advised players to not attend voluntary workouts, citing COVID-19 concerns and the length of the offseason, believing virtual meetings can suffice again for large chunks before training camp. Now Hamilton finds himself in a similar spot.
In the wake of James' injury, the NFL sent a memo to all teams this week stating that they are not required to pay players hurt while while working out away from the team facility, even while doing football training.
The NFLPA responded in an email to its players, calling the NFL "gutless," and arguing that the league was using James' injury as a "scare tactic to get you to come running back to these workouts.”
The union suggested that the Broncos' possible NFI designation of James was a threat. The Broncos followed through, placing him on the list. The union countered in its email that "Ja’Wuan was working out to stay in shape under a program recommended to him by his coach."
Multiple agents have told Denver7 that the Broncos would be best served to leave James' signing bonus alone, which appears to be the plan, as it could impact dealings with players and representatives in the future. This situation, though, has placed players in a tough spot, meaning clubs might have to show some elasticity. If teams refuse to pay players' contracts in examples like James and Hamilton will it lead to veterans showing up out of shape out of fear of injury, thus putting them at risk when workouts begin?
The union stated in the aforementioned email that "clubs who care about their players have often in the past honored a player's contract for simply working out to stay in shape."
Friday, rookie first round pick Pat Surtain admitted he never considered not attending voluntary rookie minicamp. All the healthy draft picks showed up.