FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — It feels as if the Jets have been waiting an eternity for a franchise quarterback to pull them out of the doldrums of mediocrity. So let’s call Friday eternity and a day.
The Jets kicked off training camp without highly touted rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, the result of a contract dispute. Despite a CBA-mandated guaranteed rookie contract, the third overall draft pick remains unsigned.
Darnold, who is owed $30.247 million over four years, is fighting the intricacies of his contract, according to multiple reports. Because rookie contracts are not negotiated, the base money isn’t an issue. It’s the offset language.
Darnold’s representatives appear to want a contract with no offset language — that is to say, if he gets cut by the Jets before the four years are up, he’ll continue to be paid both by the Jets and whichever team picks him up, increasing his total pay over the contract’s span.
In a contract with offsets, instead of Darnold getting two paychecks, his new team simply would take over his salary.
The quarterback drafted ahead of Darnold, Baker Mayfield, has the offset language in his contract that Darnold is trying to avoid. So does the next quarterback, Josh Allen, picked seventh overall.
Darnold is one of only two rookie holdouts (the other is Bears linebacker Roquan Smith).
On Friday, this translated into a missed day of training camp and a heavy workload for incumbent quarterback Josh McCown, 39, and Teddy Bridgewater, who took 34 snaps each in a 2 1⁄2-hour practice session.
Most teams bring four quarterbacks to training camp, but the Jets this year went with three (well, two, actually). Coach Todd Bowles said they will consider further options if the workload is too much and it becomes necessary.
“I feel like I can have some ice cream tonight — an extra bowl or so,” said McCown, who was 13-for-19. “We’ll be excited when Sam gets here, but until then, until that happens, we’re going to carry the load and be excited to do it . . . We wish everybody was here all the time, but as a player, you understand everybody has got the business side of it that they have to take care of, so we respect that and him and his crew will handle that the way they see fit and we’ll keep working here.”
A protracted negotiation could severely hinder Darnold’s immediate future with the team. He’s expected to consistently call plays in a huddle for the first time in his career and will have to adapt to both this offense and the breakneck pace of NFL play.
McCown proved last year that he can hold down an offense if a rookie doesn’t produce. Bridgewater said Friday that his surgically repaired knee feels great, making the former first-round draft pick a real possibility in this competition.
“Every time you’re not here, you lose something,” Bowles said. “It’s been a day. Obviously, when [Darnold] comes in, we’ll get him caught up, but right now, we’ve got 79 other guys to worry about. It’s part of the business. We’ve got two other quarterbacks and they can play, too.”
Bowles added that there is “no animosity” toward Darnold.
“From a learning standpoint, you want to be there as soon as possible,” McCown said, adding that situations like this crop up every now and again. “You want to be here in the walk-throughs in the morning, where so much teaching takes place, and just these practices where you can get reps. There’s no substitute for it. It’s just part of this sport — part of business, and you deal with it and move on. When he gets here, he gets here, and we’ll welcome him and get rolling, and until then, me and Teddy will hold it down.”