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What Do the Jets Have to Negotiate in Contracts With Their Top Draft Picks?

NFL: Buffalo Bills at New York Jets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets now have more than half of their 2017 Draft class under contract. It comes as no surprise. These contracts are formalities for the most part. The days of rookies holding out are mostly gone.

As part of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, the league and players decided to change the rookie wage structure. The rookie compensation pool was adjusted to drastically bring down the salaries of players on their first contract.

It made sense for everybody involved. The only people who benefited from the old format were the rookies. In the last year before the new system took effect, top overall Draft pick Sam Bradford got a contract worth $78 million. $50 million of that was guaranteed. This was all for a rookie who had never taken the field.

It is a huge risk for the team, and it is less money on the salary cap to go to proven veteran players. That is why it seemed like a no brainer to restrain rookie salaries to some extent. One year later, Cam Newton’s contract was $22 million. Even though it was guaranteed, that still is less than half of what Bradford got guaranteed.

As we have shown you, the rookie wage system dictates almost all terms of a player’s first contract.

You might ask why there are still holdouts in that case. Surely if you were a fan before this system, you realize that rookie holdouts are way down since 2011. They still do pop up from time to time. Why is this? When there is an issue, it tends to revolve around one of two things.

Well, there still are a few things in a contract that need to be negotiated. While most of the bonuses are baked into the cake and eventually paid to the player, the timing is up for negotiation. The player wants the bonus money up front. The team wants to put off paying bonuses as long as possible. Either way the player will get money, but the time its paid is something that can be worked out.

The second issue that can pop up is offsets. You might remember hearing this term come up frequently when we discussed Darrelle Revis’ status. Offsets come into play if a player is cut. It comes down to whether the old team can save some cash if the player signs with a new team. Say a player who is making $5 million guaranteed is a bust. The team cuts him. A new team signs him for $1 million. If there is offset language written into the deal, the old team gets that $1 million back and only has to pay the player $4 million. If there are no offsets, the player gets the full $5 million from the old team AND the $1 million from the new team.

While I understand to some extent that teams want these contracts to work out the best for them financially, I personally always find it silly when they play hardball on these issues. With the new system, we aren’t talking huge money. Is it really worth not having your top pick to camp on time over issues this minor? I think it generally is not.

Just look at the idiotic and unreasonable way the Chargers handled negotiations with Joey Bosa last year. They tried to play hardball and get both offsets and the bonus payments delayed. It is better to have offsets than not, but think about it. They thought he so good that they used the third pick in the Draft to take him. If you’re that confident in the player, why would you go to war over a provision in the contract that would only come into play if he was such a total flop that you cut him within four years? And the savings would probably never even be 2.5% of the salary cap so we aren’t talking about much. And he’s getting the bonus money either way no matter when the payments are scheduled. All you are arguing over is the timing. This stuff is worth not having your most prized rookie asset begin his first training camp from the start?

As the Jets work to sign their top picks such as Jamal Adams, these are the issues the sides will need to agree upon.