The San Diego Chargers are 12 days into training camp, with their first pre-season game just around the corner. But when they take the field on Thursday in Tennessee against the Titans, they will be without Joey Bosa, the former Ohio State defensive standout selected third overall by the Bolts in this year’s NFL Draft.
Bosa still has not signed his rookie contract, making him the only drafted rookie not to do so, and his holdout is now the longest among rookies since Michael Crabtree held out from the 49ers all the way until October back in 2009. Bosa and the Chargers reportedly haven’t spoken since training camp started, and the situation is so dire that Bosa’s mum said earlier this week that she wished her son hadn’t been drafted by San Diego.
“It bums me out for him so much,” Cheryl Bosa wrote to a friend, according to the San Diego Tribune. “Wish we pulled an Eli Manning on draft day.”
Back in 2004, Manning’s agent famously told the Chargers that Eli would sit out for the season if they drafted him. They did anyway, only to then promptly trade him to the Giants. Bosa’s mum’s opinion doesn’t necessarily reflect that of her son, but it’s still not an especially great sign for the morale in the Bosa camp.
Most frustrating of all, though, is the fact that the holdout remains centered on two very minor details in Bosa’s rookie contract: offset language and signing bonus deferment.
The signing bonus deferment issue is simple. Bosa wants his whole bonus right now, though the Chargers want to pay it over time.
It’s the offset language that’s more complicated here, and more maddening.
Bosa wants no offset language in his contract, meaning that if he were to be released by the Chargers before his four-year rookie contract expired, he would still be paid in full by San Diego. No offset language would also allow him to double dip, so that he could earn the money from his Chargers’ rookie deal and from a team that subsequently signed him after his release.
What’s so frustrating about this is that it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Bosa, a supremely talented defensive end, will be cut four years from now. Obviously no player is ever a sure thing, especially in the injury-prone NFL, but this holdout is now threatening to bleed into the regular season all because of something that may or may not happen in four years.
Bosa is entitled to his holdout, of course. He wants to maximise how much money he can make, and the current CBA is not especially friendly toward rookies. No offset language maximise his earning potential. More to the point, Bosa knows that his talent is his bargaining chip. He thrived in optional rookie OTAs (when he did participate), and he could be the future of the franchise, even if he’s sidelined at the moment. From the Chargers vantage, signing their first-round pick to a contract without offset language would set a dangerous precedent for future draft picks, so they’re not budging.
For now, the standoff seems like it won’t end any time soon. Bosa has until the Tuesday after Week 10 (November 15) to sign his contract, otherwise he won’t be able to play for the entire season. The deadline for the Chargers to trade Bosa is today (Tuesday, August 9), so the only option available is for the two sides to eventually get a deal done.
The question for now is when that deal will happen, not to mention how much leftover animosity there might be between the two camps when the ink dries.
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