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Why this would be “a red herring” is a bit of a mystery. It’s a standard negotiating tactic—literally one that’s taught to law students—to demand something after making a concession. Also, voidable guarantees are pretty damn important.

Voidable guarantees are triggers that do exactly what they suggest: allow teams to void guaranteed money, typically for non-football injuries related to risky activities like skydiving or riding a motorcycle, and/or suspensions related to personal conduct, PED or drug use, or the catch-all “conduct detrimental.” The Jets are one of a few teams to consistently insert language that includes fines as mechanisms for automatically voiding guarantees. In the end, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, Darnold got the Jets to blink: They removed the voidable provisions and agreed to make payable his entire $20 million signing bonus within 15 days—a rarity. This was a significant victory.

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Like offsets, voidable guarantees would only matter if Darnold were to become a colossal bust. Mehta went so far as to assert on a podcast that the Jets had no intention of voiding Darnold’s guarantee for an infraction such as a suspension related to the helmet rule. Which might be true! But had that provision remained in Darnold’s contract, the Jets would have retained the contractual right, in writing, to void his guarantees for fines. That the Jets had included such language in all of their previous contracts—including for a pair of non-QBs repped by the same agency as Darnold—is precisely what gave Darnold some bargaining room here: Under this CBA, they also hadn’t drafted a QB in the top three, either.

Put it this way: If Darnold were to turn out to be a complete flop, it’s not difficult to imagine the Jets fining him for, say, reporting late to a meeting and then using that as a pretext for canceling his guarantees sometime before his deal is up—no matter what verbal assurances they might have made before the contract was signed. After all, “conduct detrimental,” as defined by Article 42 of the CBA, can have an elastic meaning. To say nothing of the commissioner’s disciplinary powers as laid out in Article 46, which Roger Goodell has weaponized with capricious punishments for any variety of infractions.

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Remember: The rookie wage scale already strangled Darnold’s ability to bargain for what he’s worth, in a league in which quality quarterbacks are scarce (read: extremely valuable) commodities. The full guarantees are supposed to be the trade-off. Yet, like they’ve done with the increased use of techniques like injury splits, automatic voids, and per-game roster bonuses, teams keep finding ways to shift more and more of the contractual risk onto the players—to make the guarantees no longer quite so guaranteed. Take it from agent David Canter, in response to a data point reported by NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo:

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Dan Graziano summed all of this up perfectly the other day over at ESPN.com:

Every rookie contract includes language that allows teams to void guarantees under certain circumstances, including some egregious ones that would be understandable, such as drug suspensions or legal entanglements off the field. But many teams go too far, inserting language that allows them to void guarantees for far less significant reasons, such as team-imposed fines. Last year, the NFLPA found this practice so widespread that it launched an internal investigation of rookie deals to determine whether teams were violating the CBA with such language, and they sent a letter to agents warning them to be vigilant against it.

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In other words, by negotiating hard to strike these voidables, Darnold’s and Smith’s agents are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. And just last night, per the Chicago Tribune, the Bears backed off their insistence on going after Smith’s guarantees if he were to be fined for violating the league’s inscrutable helmet rule. Other issues remain, but it’s still a tangible win—just as Darnold’s was. “As an agent, you always want to protect your client’s downside, but you also want to protect the downside that’s most likely to occur,” former agent and ex-Washington cap analyst J.I. Halsell told me. “And [Darnold’s agent] in this case was able to do that.”

It’s an important distinction. It’s also an important part of a never-ending battle between the NFL’s labor and management. That it involves such minute “legal talk” that might never come up again isn’t “silly”; it’s precisely the point. And it only reinforces management’s longstanding determination to construct deals that allow them to shoulder none of the risks and all of the benefits.