It comes as no surprise to Jets fans that John Idzik has charted a course that can thus far be described as the anti Mr. T. From his inexpensive and short duration free agent signings to his refusal to grant extensions of even a single year to his methodical dismantling of the Tannenbaum roster, new Jets GM Idzik has carved out his own unique territory in the Jets front office, and that territory is a No Tannenbaum Zone.
The latest in a growing mountain of evidence that there is a new sheriff in town comes from the NFL Draft. As of the most recent figures I could find, a total of only 35 players remain unsigned from the 2013 NFL Draft. 22 of those players are first round picks and 4 are second round picks. 12 teams have signed all of their 2013 draft picks. Another 11 teams have signed all but one of their 2013 draft picks. The Jets are the only team in the NFL with their first 3 picks still unsigned.
Of all Round 2 picks, only 4 remain unsigned. The Jets' Geno Smith is one of the 4. Of the 10 picks from #8 through #17 of the first round of the 2013 Draft, only 4 picks remain unsigned. Two of the four are the Jets' Dee Milliner and Sheldon Richardson.
Contrast this approach with that of Mr. Idzik's predecessor, Mike Tannenbaum. Mr. T was reknowned for his ability to get his draft picks signed in short order, sometimes all before minicamp, and always well in advance of the league average. The price Mr. T paid for such quick signings was a loss in leverage when negotiating contracts. Everyone knew the Jets were eager, perhaps overly eager, to get their draft choices signed and into camp. The Jets tried mightily to avoid holdouts, and players' agents knew it and squeezed that leverage to get better contract terms out of the Jets.
Now comes John Idzik. He appears to have no such affinity for quick signings. Of course, since the Rookie Wage Scale went into effect it is often argued that there is nothing to negotiate. The salaries are pretty much preordained, and many of the terms are standard. Holdouts are heavily discouraged through league fines. It would appear that there is nothing much to negotiate about. There are, however, some areas of limited wiggle room. While the total dollar figures are pretty much non negotiable, the amounts and timing of guarantees and the nature of bonuses are subject to some negotiation. In addition, in what appears to be the biggest hurdle to quick contract resolution in 2013, the issue of contract offset language is very much in play.
What is contract offset language? An offset means the next team to sign a player would foot the bill on any or all of the guaranteed money owed a player who has been released. For example, if a player owed $3 million is released and is signed by another team for $2 million, his former team would only owe him the difference of $1 million. A player with no offset language would earn the original $3 million plus the $2 million from his new employer. For obvious reasons, players want no offset language in their contracts, as it allows them to "double dip" if they are released, getting the full amount of guaranteed money owed from the original club while simultaneously collecting a full salary from the new team that signs them. Teams, of course, want just the opposite, hoping to offset the sunken costs of any draft busts by the full amounts paid to such busts by their new teams. It would appear that unlike Mr. T, John Idzik is making offset language a sticking point in negotiations, resulting in slower signings of the Jets' top draft picks than at any time in recent memory, as well as slower than any other NFL team in 2013.
The frugal approach is a refreshing change from Mr. T's spendthrift ways. It is just one more indication that the Jets are in the process of radically overturning their old ways in the front office. It remains to be seen whether this new, more fiscally responsible approach will eventually yield the results all Jets fans are looking for -- another Super Bowl to go along with the rapidly fading memory of 1969.