Jets’ Darnold Ends Holdout, Inks 4-year, $30.25 Million Deal
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Sam Darnold is signed, sealed and back under center.
The New York Jets inked the rookie quarterback to a fully guaranteed four-year, $30.25 million deal Monday, ending the contract holdout of the NFL's No. 3 overall draft pick.
Darnold missed the first three days of training camp practice while his representatives and the team worked out the details. There wouldn't be a fourth straight absence.
"What's up Jets fans?" Darnold said in a video posted by the team . "Man, it's a pleasure to be signed now. I'm very excited. Very special moment. Let's do it. Jet up!"
Just a few minutes after the Jets announced the signing — which includes a bonus of about $20 million — on social media, Darnold made his way out to the practice field with his teammates greeting him with a "Rudy"-like slow-clap .
"We were just messing around with him," defensive end Leonard Williams said with a smile. "We gave him a little slow-clap and I think it was just more of a welcoming him back and also just a thing the guys do. We mess around with each other a lot.
"We were like, 'Oh, he finally made it."
Darnold spoke briefly to coach Todd Bowles as he joined the team.
"I told him he was late," Bowles said, keeping a straight face.
A grinning Darnold made his way to the warmup line and got a pat on the shoulder from Josh McCown.
"Anybody that comes in late and holds out as a draft pick and makes a bunch of money is going to catch ribbing from the team," Bowles said. "And this is only the start of it. But Sam has a good spirit and he'll take it kindheartedly."
Darnold then jumped right into position drills, handing off to running backs and throwing a few short passes before participating in team drills. After a shaky start that included a handoff, an incompletion and an intercepted pass by Doug Middleton, Darnold bounced back in red-zone drills with short touchdown tosses to fellow rookie Chris Herndon and later to wide receiver Quincy Enunwa.
The 21-year-old quarterback — who was not made available to the media after practice — is expected to compete with McCown and Teddy Bridgewater for the Jets' starting job. But he fell behind slightly with each passing day, and it began to look uncertain as to when an agreement between the sides would come together.
"The competition has been underway," Bowles said. "It just didn't start today. It started (last) Thursday when we reported for camp. He's got some work to catch up and do."
While the amount of Darnold's contract was already clear under the NFL's wage slotting system, the hang-up appeared to be over contract language.
One issue was offsets, which if included could provide a team with a measure of financial protection if it cuts a player during his rookie contract. The Jets have historically included offset language in their contracts. Not having offset language, a condition that Darnold's representatives apparently sought, allows a player to receive his remaining salary from the team that cut him, as well as get paid by another team that signs him.
According to published reports, another issue was default language related to the guaranteed money. Some teams include stipulations that could void guarantees if a player is fined and/or suspended by the NFL for disciplinary reasons.
The Jets do not make details of contracts available. Pro Football Talk reported that Darnold's contract includes offset language on future guarantees — if he gets cut during this deal — but the Jets also agreed to pay the quarterback's full $20 million signing bonus within the next 15 days and removed language in the deal voiding guarantees based on fines by the NFL.
"Obviously, we're very happy," general manager Mike Maccagnan said. "We were very happy we were able to draft Sam and, you know, it's taken a little while to get the contract done but we feel very good about it. And we're glad to have him in here."
The 39-year-old McCown is the incumbent and currently the favorite to be under center for New York at Detroit on Sept. 10 in the regular-season opener. He and Bridgewater took increased snaps in practices in Darnold's absence, and coach Todd Bowles acknowledged that the Jets might need to bring in another passer to ease the workload on the veterans.
No need now.
Darnold will be able to do some catching up on the field and in the classroom, and Bowles thinks he'll probably be ready to play in New York's preseason opener against Atlanta on Aug. 10.
"First day of camp for him," Bowles said. "It looked like the first day of camp. He'll get some studying in and he'll catch up. You understand the ramifications of missing three practices, but he can catch up and he's got time to catch up. But he's got to put his head down, because everybody has a head start."