Lions' Taylor Decker focuses on his play, not new contract, in 'uncharted territory' of 2020
It's said no news is good news, but that cliche doesn't necessarily hold up when you're talking about NFL contract negotiations.
Detroit Lions offensive tackle Taylor Decker, who is set to be a free agent at the end of this season, envisioned a different timeline this offseason when it came to his expiring deal, but the COVID-19 pandemic has understandably altered plans.
"It's just kind of uncharted territory for everybody — for the organization, for my agent," Decker said during a Thursday conference call. "At this point, every day is new for me right now in the building, so I'm just trying to get that figured out at this point. Just having a level of understanding it's a complicated situation and it's not like every other year before where guys would be going into free agency and everything is normal and business as usual. (We're) just being adaptable with that situation and kind of taking it day by day because you don't know what the situation is going to be."
Decker is maintaining an even keel in the face of uncertainty. Like most players in position to secure lucrative, long-term contracts, he's letting his agent worry about those talks while the lineman focuses on getting ready for the upcoming season. And after a virtual-based offseason robbed players of valuable practice reps to this point in the process, Decker understands he can't afford the distraction contract chatter can be.
"I don't really pay attention to a lot of it because if I'm not playing good ball, me knowing all that information doesn't even matter," Decker said. "At this point, I'm just doing what I can given the protocol and phases that we're given, to put myself in the position to play good football and hopefully that will take care of itself."
Despite the pandemic, the NFL is moving forward with plans for its 2020 season. After extensive talks between the league and its players union throughout the offseason, the two sides reached a comprehensive agreement on key financial and safety issues just ahead of players reporting for training camp late last month.
From the financial perspective, this year's salary cap remains unchanged, at $198.2 million. But with significantly reduced attendance expected across the league due to state-by-state restrictions on public gatherings, revenue is going to be down and will impact future cap figures.
The plan in place calls for those revenue losses to be spread out through the 2024 season, with an assurance the cap won't dip below $175 million next season.
Still, if it hits that floor, that's nearly a 12% decline, which would inevitably impact individual deals like the one due for Decker.
But much like he stated in the spring, when he was last asked about the status of his talks with the team, Decker doesn't sound fazed by his future with the franchise being stuck in limbo.
"I just heard in the past, kind of the timeline on when conversations would start," Decker said. "Again, with all the COVID and protests, things like that, there are a lot more important things for us as a team to focus on. I'm great with that. I've had great conversations with the team about COVID, great questions about how to keep your family healthy, great questions about protesting and activism. We've had great conversations about that, so no skin off my back about it. Like I said, I had an idea what it was going to be like, but we're in a different time than I was then."
One option Decker and the team could consider is a short-term deal — somewhere in the ballpark of three years — with higher guarantees. That would allow him to test the market again at 30, when the threat of the virus has hopefully long since dissipated and reductions to the cap have recovered.
Decker noted no such offer is on the table, but it's something he would consider.
"However, those conversations go, I'll speak with my agent about that and he'll speak with the organization about that and then however they go they go," he said. "Obviously, anything could be considered, because I think I said a million times, I think I'm a broken record saying it's just uncharted territory. It's just weird times. I think there are possibilities everywhere."