The Jets and their rookie quarterback are in a standoff over 2 small contract details unlikely to be used, and it's threatening to get ugly

  • The New York Jets and Sam Darnold are in a standoff over his rookie contract that has bled into training camp.
  • Darnold and the Jets are reportedly at odds over offset language and voids over guaranteed money, two issues that are unlikely to affect a first-round rookie quarterback like Darnold.
  • According to a report, the Jets appear to be “entrenched” in their position, creating the potential for the standoff to get ugly.

Just four days into training camp, the New York Jets are having quarterback problems again.

The Jets and Sam Darnold, the quarterback they took with the third overall pick in the draft, remain in a standoff over Darnold’s rookie contract. The contract is expected to be four years, $US30.2 million.

According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, the hold-up appears to be over two issues: offset language and the voiding of guarantees.

Offset language can be a sticky negotiating point in rookie contracts. If teams get offset language, it means if they can cut or waive a player on his rookie deal and if that player signs a contract with another team, the player’s new salary offsets the remainder of what the original team owes. As Cimini described, Darnold would make $US4.6 million in his fourth year. If he got waived and signed a $US1 million contract with another team, the Jets would only pay him $US3.6 million – the money is offset. If there was no offset language, Darnold could make $US5.6 million that year.

Offset language is rarely used in the first case, however. First-round picks are such big investments by teams that it’s unlikely they would cut bait with a player so soon, barring disastrous results. There have been times where teams moved on from first-round picks, but it’s rare, especially for a quarterback like Darnold, who was drafted with the hope of being a future franchise quarterback.

According to Cimini, the bigger issue might be over guaranteed money. The Jets reportedly have a clause in Darnold’s contract that would void the guaranteed money if Darnold is fined or suspended by the NFL for on- or off-field conduct.

According to Cimini, that’s different than other rookie quarterbacks, like the Cleveland Browns’ Baker Mayfield or the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen, where the guaranteed money could only be voided if they get suspended, not just fined.

Like offset language, as Cimini wrote, it’s hard to imagine the Jets voiding the guaranteed money over an insignificant fine. That’s doubly true if Darnold proves to be a franchise talent.

The standoff has the potential to get ugly. According to Cimini, the Jets appear to be “entrenched” in their position and are unwilling to budge on these issues, fearing it would set a bad precedent in future negotiations. Cimini reported that the standoff may go longer than anyone initially expected.

The worst-case scenario would be similar to what the Los Angeles Chargers experienced with 2016 third overall pick Joey Bosa.Bosa and the Chargers also got into a standoff over offset language and a deferred bonus, with Bosa missing all of training camp before signing before the start of the season. He missed the first four games of the season while getting acclimated to the team.

It might be a particularly precarious position for the Jets. The Jets are deep at quarterback this year, with Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater also on the roster. It’s unclear if Darnold was going to start right away. But if he continues to miss camp, it could put him further behind the learning curve and push back his eventual start date. Training camp can be crucial to learning the playbook, teammates, and NFL game in general. The more time Darnold misses, the less time he has to get acclimated.

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