Jets’ inability to get QB Zach Wilson under contract looks like a massive failure

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The New York Jets have a lot of ground to cover before they’re going to be competitive again. The franchise hasn’t had a winning season since 2015, there’s been no postseason since 2010 (the Rex Ryan/Mark Sanchez days), and there’s the matter of getting the usual waste job that happens when you hire now-former head coach Adam Gase to do whatever it is that he does. With new head coach Robert Saleh and new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur in charge along with general manager Joe Douglas, it seemed that the Jets were at least pointing in the right direction for 2021 and beyond. Saleh learned a lot on in his stints with the 49ers and Seahawks, and LaFleur is one of the brighter minds in the game.

However… the team’s inability to come to terms with second overall pick Zach Wilson in an age when draft pick contracts are slotted is a really bad look. Why the hold-up? It’s not money; it’s contract language. As ESPN’s Rich Cimini points out, the issue is offset language. The team would like financial protection if it cuts Wilson before his four-year, $35.2 million contract runs out, while Wilson and his representatives would obviously prefer that the discussion goes in a different direction.

There’s also apparently the issue of the $32 million signing bonus attached to Wilson’s contract. The team would like to avoid paying the whole thing upfront as it did in the first 15 days of Sam Darnold’s contract back in 2018, when Darnold was the third overall pick. The Jets offloaded Darnold to the Panthers in April when it was clear that they were going in a different direction at the quarterback position.

All well and good, but without a credible veteran quarterback on the roster, the Jets are missing time with their new guy under center (reps with his teammates that Wilson clearly needs). Not a great look as training camp gets underway, and rookies have just three preseason games in which to get their stuff together. Wilson is the only first-round pick not under contract at this point. And right now, the Jets are practicing with Mike White, a former Cowboys fifth-round pick who has never taken an NFL regular-season snap.

“Joe [Douglas] is dealing with it,” Saleh said after Wednesday’s practice. “Obviously, from a business side of it there’s a lot of things that come into play. Like I said, Joe has a great handle on it. Again, when he signs, he signs. There are 89 other guys that deserve our attention and that’s where all our focus is right now.”

So… when do the Jets think they need Wilson in the fold?

“Ask me again tomorrow,” Saleh said.

There are not many tomorrows when getting Wilson ready for the rigors of the NFL, and time is ticking quickly. There’s no question about Wilson’s raw talent, but given his YOLO style that brings Baker Mayfield to mind, it will take time to work out the kinks.