In 1991, the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Miami (Fla.) quarterback Craig Erickson in the fifth round. Erickson had injured his knee in a Hula Bowl practice and slipped in the draft so he decided to sit out all season and try the draft again. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took him in the fourth round in 1992.
And that’s the last time a player was drafted twice by the NFL. Joey Bosa might break that streak.
It’s not even September yet, and even the ugliest of holdouts always seem to work out. Both sides have too much to lose to let a full season pass by without a contract agreement. There’s a lot of time for Bosa, the Ohio State defensive end who was the third pick of the draft, and the San Diego Chargers to come to terms. But the standoff is inching toward the point of no return.
After having their “best offer” rejected, the Chargers took the highly unusual step of releasing a statement to the media about the Bosa holdout:
The San Diego Chargers issued the following statement regarding the contract negotiations with 2016 first-round selection Joey Bosa:
Our contract discussions and offers to the representatives of Joey Bosa have been both fair and structurally consistent with the contracts of every other Chargers player.
Our offer included:
• An initial signing bonus payment that is larger than any player in the League has received in the last two drafts.
• More money in this calendar year than every player in this year’s draft except one (QB Carson Wentz).
• The largest payment and the highest percentage of signing bonus received in the first calendar year of any Chargers’ first-round selection since the inception of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (2011).
We gave Joey’s representatives our best offer last night, which was rejected today. The offer that we extended was for Joey to contribute during all 16 games and beyond. Joey’s ability to contribute for an entire rookie season has now been jeopardized by the valuable time he has missed with his coaches and his teammates. Since Joey will not report at this time, his ability to produce not just early in the season, but throughout the entire season, has been negatively impacted.
As a result, we will restructure our offer since Joey will be unable to contribute for the full 16 game season without the adequate time on the practice field, in the classroom, and in preseason games.
The decision to go public with negotiations, and also promise that they would reduce the offer because Bosa won’t be able to contribute for all 16 games, won’t help matters. The Chargers’ statement might end up being an important moment in this holdout, and probably not for the better.
Later on Wednesday evening, Bosa’s representatives released a media-wide statement taking issue with the Chargers’ public stance, saying (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter):
It is unfortunate the San Diego Chargers have decided to manipulate facts and negotiate in the media. The team surely is not strengthening its relationship with Joey Bosa by taking this stance and making their position public.
We have decided that we will not engage in public negotiations or discuss numbers and/or terms in this negotiation.
We will say, that it is ironic that the team now takes issue with the timing of Joey’s arrival, since the Chargers unilaterally decided to remain silent for the first 14 days of training camp instead of replying in a timely fashion to the proposal we made on the eve of training camp on July 28th.
At this point, all we can do is continue to fight for a fair contract on behalf of our client, as we do for all of our clients. The Chargers can focus on trying to sway public opinion, but our focus will remain on our client and securing a contract for him that is fair and consistent with his draft position.
Rookie contracts are slotted in the current collective-bargaining agreement, but offset language and when signing bonuses can be paid out are still negotiable components. And the two sides have battled about the offset language and the timing of the signing bonus payments. Bosa is the Chargers’ first top-10 pick since 2011, when the current CBA was agreed upon. In many cases for top picks, teams have given in on the offset language issue — which allows a player to earn his entire rookie contract and also a salary from a second team if he’s cut during his four-year rookie deal — or paid the entire signing bonus in the same calendar year. Two teams usually give one or the other. The Chargers have been reportedly unwilling to give in on either, because they are unwilling to set a precedent.
So Bosa sits. The Chargers are right about one thing: Bosa is unlikely to have a normal rookie season. He has missed two preseason games, will surely miss a third and the way things are going, he’ll miss regular-season games too. We’ve seen holdouts end quickly, but no matter when Bosa signs he will still have a tough time making up for lost time. Both sides deserve blame for that. The Chargers are coming off looking especially petty.
And maybe this is the rare case in which the team and player won’t work it out. You were probably right to assume through the past month that this will get settled eventually, but the Chargers taking their gripes public might be the first real sign that this will not get resolved.
Not many rookies have sat out an entire season over a contract issue. Erickson never came to terms. Bo Jackson famously went to play baseball instead of signing with the Buccaneers, and came back to football after the Los Angeles Raiders drafted him. Quarterback Kelly Stouffer sat out the entire 1987 season over a contract dispute after being drafted sixth overall by the St. Louis Cardinals, and had his draft rights traded to the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the season. That can’t happen anymore for Bosa; the deadline for trading a pick under the current rules has passed.
So there aren’t many options left. Either Bosa and the Chargers find a common ground, or he’ll sit out all year and go back in next year’s draft, which is incredibly rare through NFL history and hasn’t happened in 24 years.
Bosa would be fine; contract holdout or not, some team would probably be happy to add a promising pass rusher in the first round of the 2017 draft. The Chargers would just lose out on the third pick of the draft.
It still seems likely that Bosa will eventually sign, because that’s how it usually goes. But after the Chargers called out Bosa, the two sides seem further apart than ever.
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