Zach Wilson signs rookie contract with New York Jets, ending stalemate after two missed practices

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets coach Robert Saleh said on Thursday that two days of missed practice for rookie quarterback Zach Wilson were "too many already."

Well, Saleh doesn't have to worry about Wilson missing a third.

The Jets and No. 2 overall pick Wilson reached an agreement on his rookie deal, a person with knowledge of the situation told the USA TODAY Network. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss negotiations. The four-year contract is for $35.1 million, including a signing bonus of $22.9 million.

NFL Network reported that the two sides were able to reach a compromise: the Jets got the offset language that they wanted included in the deal, and Wilson will be paid his entire signing bonus within the next 15 days.

The end result: Wilson should be out on the field Friday morning, warming up for the third practice of training camp. And that will be a very good thing for the Jets, both on and off the field.

The Jets don't have a quarterback on the roster who has ever started in a game. So in Wilson's absence, potential backups Mike White and James Morgan split first-team reps over the first two days of practice. And while White was clearly more solid than Morgan, neither player looked good enough to even prove they are capable of being a reliable backup.

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Quarterback, Zach Wilson as the New York Jets participate in OTA’s at their practice facility in Florham Park, NJ on June 10, 2021.
Quarterback, Zach Wilson as the New York Jets participate in OTA’s at their practice facility in Florham Park, NJ on June 10, 2021.

With Wilson back on the field, it will give him a chance to build on what he learned in offseason practices this spring. And less than an hour before Wilson and the Jets got their deal done, Saleh stressed that these missed opportunities to learn were what gave him pause over the contract stalemate.

"It's more concern for the kid," Saleh said. "Every rep is important, so my concern is that two days is too many already, for him. But as far as the installs go and the way we're rest of the team, that doesn't concern me at all. But this young man's got a chance to do something special around here that hasn't been done in a while and every rep matters for him."

Even though he wasn't in the building, Saleh said that Wilson kept in contact with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur to make sure that the young quarterback was up to speed with the installation of the offense. Saleh said it helps that the team already fully installed the offense in the spring, so it's just a matter of becoming more familiar with it.

"I know he's had conversations with Mike in regards to install, a lot of dialogue back and forth," Saleh said. "But he's in a good place, he's a sharp kid. He's going through the process, it's his first season too. We'll be excited when he gets here and it'll be good to not have to answer questions about him and his contract."

Saleh said that with a big smile on his face. But the truth is that the first three days of Jets camp — report day and the opening two practices — were dominated by questions about Wilson and his absence. And after an offseason of positivity, many Jets fans were furious that one of their biggest reasons to be optimistic wasn't under contract.

Saleh understands the sentiment. But he doesn't believe there's much merit to it.

"No," Saleh said. " I get outside perception, outside narrative, 'same old Jets.' Like, whatever. It has nothing to do with any of that and everything to with a business transaction and when it gets done it gets done. But in here, guys are working, there's 89 other guys that are trying to make a living. And they're counting on us to put forth our best effort as coaches and as an organization to put them in position to succeed as individuals. And everything's going to piece together. Everything's going to be fine."

Less than an hour later it did all come together. And Saleh's long-term view of this whole situation is likely to be proven correct as well. Three years ago, No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold missed three practices before agreeing to a deal with the Jets — in a similar compromise to the one both sides made with Wilson. Within days, the missed practices were forgotten and not thought about again — until this week.

Had Wilson's absence extended into next week, when the Jets began to practice in pads, there's a chance it could have done real damage to his preparation for the upcoming season. But it didn't. Wilson will be here on Friday for another lighter practice. He'll be here on Saturday when the fans return to training camp for the first time in two years. And he'll be here on Monday, when the Jets put on full pads for the first time.

Saleh insisted that no matter how it played out, he wasn't going to change his approach.

"You're never going to see me panic," he said. "There's 89 guys who are counting on us to prepare them the best way we know how. And right now they've got our full attention. Zach's going to sign, and when it happens is when it's going to happen. I don't fret over things I have no control over, so when it gets done it'll be awesome to get him back here."

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Zach Wilson, New York Jets agree to contract after QB misses practices