The Jets drafted Sam Darnold in the hopes he would become their franchise quarterback, something they haven’t had for the better part of [checks notes] close to 50 years. Darnold, the third overall pick, was supposed to make his training camp debut today. But he was nowhere to be found in Florham Park because he and the Jets can’t agree on a contract. And the sticking point is some fucking chump change.
Per numerous reports, the primary issue Darnold and the Jets can’t agree on is whether to include offset language in Darnold’s rookie contract. The deal is slotted to be for four years at roughly $30 million, with a signing bonus of around $20 million, all fully guaranteed. If Darnold were to be cut and then sign with another team before he plays out those four years, an offset would allow the Jets to deduct what they owe him from whatever the other team is paying him. No offset would allow Darnold to double dip. Darnold is repped by superagent Jimmy Sexton, who wrested $12 million from the Jets for one season of Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing to the opposition two years ago. But we’re really not talking about anything close to that kind of money this time around.
Offsets have been one of the few negotiating opportunities for players taken at the top of the draft under the current CBA. Though high draft picks were initially able to strike offsets from their deals during the CBA’s early years, that mostly hasn’t been the case of late. In fact, teams have largely succeeded in including offsets for high picks, with the Jaguars and the Rams being the only two teams to have consistently struck them for top 10 picks. Last year, Jags running back Leonard Fournette (at No. 4) avoided getting an offset, and Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky (No. 2) had them struck from his training camp roster bonuses.
Offsets had held up contracts for several of this year’s other top 10 picks before camps opened this week, but most players caved. After Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick, agreed to a deal with offsets on Wednesday, Cleveland.com reported that “Mayfield and his family were eager for him to get into camp and not miss any practice time.” Which is in keeping with how NFL teams steamroll players at the bargaining table. It’s always the player’s loyalty that tests team cohesion, and never the other way around.
A perfect example: Roquan Smith, a linebacker drafted No. 8 overall by the Bears, is the only other member of this year’s draft class still without a deal. Smith’s absence from the start of Bears camp prompted ex-Bears head coach Dave Wannstedt to say, “For a rookie to hold out because of some fine print, it’s pretty selfish from an agent standpoint to do that. This kid needs to be here.” Never mind that part of the hold-up here appears to be whether the Bears can wipe out Smith’s guarantees if he were to be suspended for, say, violating the helmet rule.
Retired NFL offensive lineman Joe Thomas fired back at Wannstedt about this:
Which brings us back to Darnold, and to fucking chump change. If Darnold were to be cut before his rookie deal runs out, it would mean he’s a bust and not likely to sign somewhere else for a significant amount of money.
I asked overthecap.com founder Jason Fitzgerald about that tweet. This was his reply:
“From the Jets’ point of view, we are talking probably $750,000 if there are offsets. $750,000 is pennies on a $30 million contract. He may earn more if he plays at the Sanchez level and has no offsets, but from the team perspective it’s just the $750,000 that really is the difference.”
The Jets traded three second-round picks to move up three spots to grab Darnold. And now they’re haggling with him over less than a million bucks on a $30 million deal that would only come into play if he’s a total bust. Yep, the Sam Darnold era is really off to a great start.