NFL has rich holdout history

The days of the mega holdouts are a distant memory. Holdouts are unnecessary evils in the NFL. Howard Slusher, a Los Angeles-based agent in the 1970s and 1980s, earned the reputation of being "Hold 'Em Out" Howie. Like Scott Boras in baseball, Slusher was willing to keep a player out of football a year or longer if the numbers weren't right.

But there still have been some dandies. Here are some of the best over the past 20 years:

1. RB Bo Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1986): In the 1980s, well before the salary cap, teams had all the control in contract negotiations. There was no free agency. Draft choices either had to accept team offers or hold out. Jackson found the most original way of saying no. The Bucs perennially were drafting near the top of the first round, and few players liked owner Hugh Culverhouse's offers. The Bucs made Jackson a five-year offer. He said no and bolted to baseball. The first pick of the 1986 draft ended up spending his first pro September in a Kansas City Royals uniform instead of a Tampa Bay Bucs uniform. By 1989, he was an All-Star. Still, Jackson wanted to get back on the football field to fulfill his legacy as being one of sports' great athletes. By not signing with the Bucs before the 1987 draft, Jackson created one of the steals in NFL history. The Raiders took him in the seventh round. By 1990, he was a Pro Bowl running back for Al Davis.

2. LB Cornelius Bennett, Indianapolis Colts (1987): Bennett didn't like anything facing him in 1987. He held out 102 days after the Colts invested a first-round choice for him. The NFL went on a 24-day strike. Bennett, one of the best defensive players to come out of Alabama, simply waited. Then Bills general manager Bill Polian thought Bennett was the final piece in the rebuilding of the Bills. So on Oct. 31, 1987, Polian made the trade that put the Bills on the road to four Super Bowl appearances. He traded for the rights to Bennett in a deal that also involved the Rams and Eric Dickerson. After 102 days of holding out, Bennett ended up parlaying his demands for a big contract into a slice of history, ending up with Marv Levy and helping the Bills to one of the most memorable four-year runs in NFL history.

3. RB Eric Dickerson, Los Angeles Rams (1985 and 1987): Like Kobe Bryant, Dickerson was a Hollywood-style athlete. He was a track star who was also a football superstar. In 1984, he rushed for 2,105 yards for the Rams, but, to Rams management, Dickerson was a problem. He held out two games into the 1985 season. In 1987, he walked out on the Rams despite having a contract, leading to his trade to the Colts. The 1987 trade to Indianapolis was a blockbuster, a three-way deal in which Bennett ended up with the Buffalo Bills. Involving four players, three teams and six draft choices, the Halloween trade of 1987 was considered one of the biggest in NFL history. With the Colts, Dickerson was one of the game's best offensive weapons. He averaged 1,419 yards a season in his first three years in Indianapolis, but injuries started catching up to him. Dickerson is the first to admit that franchise running backs wear down after six busy seasons. After six years, his 4.6- and 5.6-yards-per-carry numbers started dropping -- to 4.2 and 4.1 in his seventh and eighth years, respectively. Still, his work stoppages in 1985 and 1987 were classics.

4. DT Sean Gilbert, Washington Redskins (1997): Gilbert staged the most dramatic holdout of the 1997 season. He skipped the entire year. Gilbert had the raw talent to be a dominant force from the defensive tackle position. Admittedly, though, Gilbert had off-the-field problems. He partied too much in his early days with the Rams. The No. 3 pick in the 1991 draft, Gilbert made the Pro Bowl when he was only 23, one of the youngest players to earn that honor at the time. It was too much too soon. During his brief stay in Washington, where he played just one season (1996), Gilbert turned his life around. He became a minister and sat out the 1997 season, content to wait for the right contract offer and spend time in his hometown of Aliquippa, Pa. The Panthers ended up giving him one of the biggest defensive line contracts in NFL history in 1998. But he never lived up to the billing on the field in Carolina.

5. TE Keith Jackson, Miami Dolphins (1995): His 1995 negotiation was a test of wills. The Dolphins didn't believe he would sit out the season. Jackson wasn't going to sign a deal that didn't appeal to him. So he held out 91 days until the Packers and general manager Ron Wolf pulled off a trade near the October trade deadline. The Dolphins had Eric Green to fill the tight end position. Plus, Jackson was hinting about retiring. The Dolphins didn't believe him. Wolf felt Jackson was one of the rare athletic talents at tight end. Adding him would be the difference in what turned out to be a Super Bowl season. So Wolf pulled the trade. Jackson scrambled to get himself in shape over the final nine weeks of the season. His numbers were great (13 regular-season catches for 142 yards). He was still getting in shape. Once he got in shape, watch out. He had 40 catches the next year, and the move turned out to be one of the best for Wolf in establishing the Packers again as a Super Bowl team.

6. WR Joey Galloway, Seattle Seahawks (1999): Credit Mike Holmgren, the Seahawks' coach and general manager at the time, and Galloway for being stubborn and hard-willed. Galloway was one of the game's best deep threats for Seattle. But in 1999, negotiations for a new contract were going nowhere. Galloway wanted something slightly less than the $5 million a year given to Packers wide receiver Antonio Freeman. The Seahawks had a slightly smaller number in mind. So Galloway held out for half of the 1999 season. This was a nasty holdout. After that season, the Seahawks dealt Galloway to the Cowboys for two first-round picks. Injuries prevented Galloway from having the kind of impact in Dallas that was expected.

7. WR Carl Pickens, Cincinnati Bengals (1999): This 1999 holdout was strange. Pickens hated playing for the Bengals. Cincinnati management didn't like his continued talk about demanding a trade. The result was a 41-day holdout until Sept. 9 that ended up with a stunning result. Pickens signed a five-year, $23.25 million contract even though he said he would never play for the Bengals again. The next year, Pickens expressed disappointment that ownership retained Bruce Coslett as head coach, and he was traded to the Titans. Pickens' constant verbal abuse of the organization led the Brown family to put language in future contracts to make players pay penalties if they leveled such blasts.

8. QB Kelly Stouffer, Seattle Seahawks (1987): Stouffer was a surprise first-round pick by the Cardinals in 1987. His agents never liked any of the offers made by the Cardinals, so they advised him to hold out the season. Stouffer was willing to sit out the year and get back into the 1988 draft. The Seahawks pulled off a trade with the Cardinals, gave Stouffer the contract he wanted and let him try to develop as the team's franchise quarterback. The unique follow-up to this story is that one of Stouffer's agents, Mike Blatt, ended up brokering the deal in which John Nordstrom sold the Seahawks to Blatt's friend, Ken Behring. For the Seahawks, Stouffer wasn't much more than a raw quarterback who completed slightly more than 50 percent of his passes. Still, his holdout changed the face of the franchise with what followed.

9. QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers (2004): Let's play "What if?" What if Rivers held out 18 days instead of 25 in 2004? Had he showed up a week earlier, he would have been in competition for the Chargers' starting job. Had that happened, Drew Brees might not have had a Pro Bowl season and San Diego might not have been last year's Cinderella story, finishing with a 12-4 record. Remember, the Chargers selected Eli Manning against his wishes. Less than an hour after the pick, they traded Manning to the Giants in order to get Rivers as their quarterback of the future. But Rivers held out until Aug. 23, despite threats by ownership that it wouldn't change its offer. Brees is expected to start this year, and Rivers is expected to be the backup. It sets up an interesting decision after the season as to which quarterback will stay. What if?

10. OT Walter Jones, Seahawks (2002-04): Jones had three of the most unbelievable holdouts of recent vintage. Like Orlando Pace in St. Louis, Jones felt as though he was a prisoner of the franchise tag. Being designated the Seahawks' franchise player prevented him from receiving a $10 million-plus signing bonus. Still, the 20 percent increases each year made Jones among the highest-paid players in the league. Jones missed three consecutive training camps, holding out until the start of the regular season. Despite not having a training camp, Jones made three consecutive Pro Bowls. Last year was particularly amazing. He didn't even have a training camp practice, yet he didn't allow a sack during the regular season. Jones will be in camp this summer with a seven-year, $52.5 million contract.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.