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The Questions About Zach Wilson’s Contract Negotiations

Syndication: The Record Chris Pedota, via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Why hasn’t Wilson signed his contract yet?

A report from Pro Football Talk indicates some of the major issues with the negotiations.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Jets and quarterback Zach Wilson have struck multiple roadblocks on the path to a contract for the second overall pick in the draft. Issues include (but aren’t limited to) cash flow and offset language.

Multiple other members of the media had previously reported on the offset issue.

What does all of that mean?

The cash flow issue comes down to when Wilson receives his signing bonus. The amount is not in question. Over The Cap’s rookie wage estimates show us that Wilson is going to receive a signing bonus of around $23 million. There is no negotiation on that.

The timing of the payments can be negotiated, however. The two sides must agree whether Wilson will receive the entire $23 million right now or whether some or all of the payment can be delayed until a later date.

Offsets would only come into play in the event Wilson is cut somewhere down the line. His entire 4 year, $35 million contract is guaranteed. If the Jets cut him during the life of the contract, the offsets could determine whether the team could save money.

Hypothetically if Wilson was cut and signed a $1 million contract with another team, the Jets would no longer be responsible for $1 million of the money in the contract if the deal had offsets. If Wilson got a $2 million contract, the Jets would be off the hook for $2 million.

If, however, the contract has no offsets, the Jets would have to pay Wilson the full $35 million even if he signed a contract with a new team.

Are these battles worth fighting for the Jets?

In a word I would say, no.

The amount of the signing bonus is set. I don’t see much of a reason the timing of the payment should be a big issue for the Jets.

I’d also argue taking a hard line on offsets isn’t worth the trouble. They would only matter in a scenario where Wilson is a total bust, and the cap savings would be negligible.

It seems like the Jets have tried to get their side of the argument out because virtually every beat writer has pointed out that most teams include offsets in rookie contracts. I don’t think the relevant question is whether the rest of the NFL has offsets, though.

The question worth asking is whether this is so important that it’s worth the new franchise quarterback not being at the start of training camp. The answer to that seems like a resounding no to me.

There just isn’t much gained in including offsets for first round picks. I have heard arguments that the Jets would be breaking precedent, and more first round picks would demand a lack of offsets. I don’t find the argument compelling at all, though. Making an exception for your franchise quarterback is easy enough to understand. Even if somehow it isn’t, there’s no great loss including offsets for future rookies.

I’m all for tough negotiating and smart resource allocation. I believe the little things add up over the long run. But you also have to be practical and see the forest through the trees. We aren’t in the days where you negotiated whether a top pick was getting $60 million. These issues are simply not worth the disruption of a holdout.

Is it time to panic?

In two words I would say, not yet.

There’s still time for a last minute deal to be struck and have Wilson on the field for the first day of practice. Even if he missed a few days, it would not be the end of the world or be likely to materially affect his preparation for the season.

In situations like this, I assume people will make the smart decision until they prove me wrong. If we got to a point where Wilson missed a few weeks, and it impacted his ability to be prepared for Week 1, it would be time to be concerned (and question the front office for allowing such minor issues to jeopardize the season).

Giving everybody the benefit of the doubt, I will guess that cooler heads will prevail, and nobody will remember this in a few weeks.