FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The Jets already have a quarterback controversy.
Rookie Zach Wilson remained unsigned as Jets’ veterans reported for training camp on Tuesday. It’s looking like the Jets will hold their first practice on Wednesday morning without Wilson, unless general manager Joe Douglas can strike a deal.
"Joe’s working on it here and hopefully that gets done," first-year head coach Robert Saleh said.
Wilson is slotted to earn roughly $35.1 million over four years on his rookie deal. But it appears one of the snags in the negotiations is related to the offset language in the contract.
The Jets include offsets in all of their contracts. It protects the team if they release a player before his deal is up.
It is a common practice. Of the 32 NFL teams, it is believed that 30 of them include offsets in their contracts. Jacksonville, one of the teams that doesn’t, signed No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence three weeks ago. His deal has no offset clauses. The Jets selected Wilson with the No. 2 pick out of BYU.
This isn’t an ideal situation for either side to start off on this path.
The Jets went 2-14 last year and missed the playoffs for the 10th straight time. They traded Sam Darnold, the No. 3 pick in 2018, just before the draft, when they decided that Wilson would be their new franchise quarterback.
Wilson had a strong spring with the Jets. But he also needs experience with the offense and to build chemistry and familiarity with his teammates.
But Saleh downplayed the whole situation. He didn’t seem overly concerned that Wilson would miss much time, saying, "I’ve got a lot of faith in Joe." But Saleh also believes that whenever Wilson arrives he will make up for any lost time.
"From a rookie standpoint you need as many reps as you can get," Saleh said. "It’s something that he’ll have to navigate through. I have a lot of faith in Zach too. He’s incredibly intelligent, he’s got a tremendous drive. When he does get here, I know somehow, someway he’ll make up for it.
There could be more of an urgency for the Jets to get something done because they don’t have a veteran backup quarterback on the roster. Mike White and James Morgan – neither of whom have attempted an NFL snap – will lead the offense until Wilson joins the team.
"As it is with every player on this roster, when one player imisses another person has to take care of those reps," Saleh said. "It’s a challenge just in terms of trying to maintain the wear and tear on these players. For the individual that’s where the challenge becomes in terms of making up those reps.
"Everybody knows how important it is to me and our team with regards to reps and practice and process and every moment you miss of that process it does become a challenge from an individual standpoint. As a team we’re in good shape, the installs are in good shape and the offense is ready to roll.
Darnold also missed the start of camp as a rookie over a contract dispute that was unrelated to offset clauses. He was out the first three days of practice, but the other quarterbacks on the roster were veterans Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater.
"I don’t want to comment on what’s Zach’s dealing with because I know that process is not fun," right guard Greg Van Roten said. "I know he just wants to play football like everybody else. The business side of sports leaks in every now and then."