Ready for liftoff: Jets’ Wilson signs rookie deal

NFL

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — It took longer than expected, but the New York Jets and quarterback Zach Wilson agreed to terms Thursday on his rookie contract, sources told ESPN.

The first-round pick and presumptive starter, who missed two days of practice as the two sides haggled over technicalities in the contract language, will sign a four-year, $35.15 million contract — a slotted deal that is fully guaranteed.

It includes a $22.9 million signing bonus and a fifth-year team option, standard for all first-round picks.

Wilson was the last unsigned first-round selection from the 2021 NFL draft.

The contract includes offset and signing bonus will be paid within 15 days, per source

The sticking points were offset language and the payment schedule of his signing bonus. A source said the contract includes an offset and the signing bonus will be paid within 15 days, a source said, so the sides compromised.

At the start of camp, coach Robert Saleh said he wasn’t concerned about Wilson missing camp time. “It’s something he’ll have to navigate through,” Saleh said. “I’ve got a lot of faith in Zach. He’s incredibly intelligent and he’s got a tremendous drive. When he does get here, I know somehow, some way he’ll make up for it.”

Wilson benefitted from a heavy workload in the spring. With no veterans on the roster, he took all the first-team reps.

There was an increased sense of urgency to strike a deal because the Jets are counting on him to be their opening-day starter, although they haven’t announced that. The only other quarterbacks on the roster are James Morgan and Mike White, neither of whom has regular-season experience. Rookie contract disputes are unusual because the deals are slotted, but teams and agents sometimes haggle over certain clauses.

The Jets include an offset in every contract that has guaranteed money, which provides financial protection if they release the player before the contract is complete. An offset allows a team to cut a player before the end of his four-year contract is completed and have the remaining money reduced by the amount of his next contract

This isn’t an unusual stance. It’s believed that 30 of the 32 teams use offsets in contracts. The exceptions are the Los Angeles Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars, who signed No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence to a deal with no offsets.

Without an offset, a cut player collects the guarantee from his old team, plus the money he receives from his new team – a.k.a. double dipping.

What complicated the Jets’ negotiation was that at least two of the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round received deals with no offsets – Lawrence and Justin Fields (No. 11 by the Chicago Bears). Fields received a partial offset.

Interestingly, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, the top pick in 2020 and represented by the same agency that negotiated Wilson’s contract, signed a contract that includes offset language.

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