The New York Jets are hopeful that a new coaching staff led by Robert Saleh and the arrival of quarterback Zach Wilson will ring in an ascend to prominence. Unfortunately, things are off to a rocky start, and the Jets have no one to blame but themselves.
After Trey Lance agreed to terms on his fully-guaranteed rookie deal with the San Francisco 49ers, Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, remains the only first-round selection who’s unsigned as training camps begin around the NFL.
The Jets’ rationale for not signing Zach Wilson is contradictory in principle
So, get a load of how Jetsy the Jets are reportedly being right now.
According to the New York Post‘s Brian Costello, offset language is the main roadblock between Wilson’s representatives and Gang Green striking an official deal.
What is “offset language” you ask? It’s basically insurance for a team in the event that a high first-round pick is cut within the first four seasons of his contract, that the team won’t be on the hook for all of his guaranteed salary when he signs with another team.
But this isn’t 2009. The rookie wage scale makes the penalty for whiffing on a high draft pick far less severe than it was a little over a decade ago. This system is set up to avoid any potential disputes that arise to ensure rookies report to training camp on time.
To the main point of this boldfaced subheading: By refusing to budge thus far on offset language, New York is trying to protect itself in case Wilson is a bust. This mentality makes no sense.
If the Jets really want to affirm their belief in Wilson — who, by all accounts, shined in taking all the first-team reps in OTAs and training camp, loves the game, and has loads of talent to go with his work ethic — why not just give him the fully-guaranteed deal?
Heck, just look at San Francisco. Jimmy Garoppolo could have a fire lit under him by Lance, play for the 49ers for multiple seasons, and the team would be paying Lance’s guaranteed contract while he rides the bench. It’s unlikely, yet it’s possible.
Quite a departure from the immediate expectations being thrown at Wilson, who’ll be QB1 from Day 1 and be tasked with finally filling the shoes of “Broadway” Joe Namath.
New York Jets doing their best to fail another young QB in Zach Wilson
Kind of a rough transition to this section, right? Bear with it.
To give credit where it’s due, general manager Joe Douglas did well to surround Wilson with more talent. Guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and wideout Elijah Moore headlined the Jets’ draft class, and offensive tackle Morgan Moses, along with and former Tennessee Titans receiver Corey Davis, came aboard in free agency.
So, it’s not like the Jets failed Wilson at all stages of this offseason. That’s why it’s so perplexing that this contract debate is continuing to make headlines — and why it’s so strange that Douglas didn’t bother to sign even a cheap veteran to mentor Wilson as he prepares to be the new face of the franchise.
Between Wilson, Mike White and James Morgan, the current Jets signal-callers have attempted precisely zero passes in the NFL. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that because of Wilson’s absence from camp, New York is working out a couple journeymen:
If either Josh Johnson or Sean Mannion sign, they’re probably only going to be camp arms. Hey, at least Wilson might have someone with a little experience to bounce his thoughts off of — even if that experience isn’t great.
The minutiae of a rookie contract, and the difference of a couple to a few million dollars to get him a competent backup who can help him prepare for a long 17-game season that’ll be rife with growing pains, make New York’s handling of Wilson all the more puzzling.
Can the New York Jets get out of their own way to let Zach Wilson shine?
By not just giving Wilson his fully-guaranteed, still-cheap rookie deal in comparison to the outrageous, inflated QB market that’s emerged in recent years, the Jets are already setting themselves back for 2021.
Wilson needs every single rep he can get as he learns to adjust to the NFL game. He’ll definitely get that in the preseason, yet developing chemistry with his receivers in practice is just as important so that the trust is there in live game reps.
Maximizing every phase of Wilson’s development should be New York’s No. 1 priority.
Again, it hasn’t been a total disaster. This thing is going to take some time to rebuild for Gang Green, particularly in an AFC East division where the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots all look like perennial playoff contenders.
Having the right quarterback is the first step to solving any football equation. If Wilson is in fact that guy for the Jets, they’ll have fought more than half the battle already. Until the young field general proves otherwise, it’s best for New York to bet on Wilson and get him rolling as soon as possible.
Every day counts. Wilson’s development could unravel as Gang Green sorts through its latest rebuild attempt. Sam Darnold never really had a fair chance, and if New York doesn’t get its act together, there’s already a higher risk of Wilson flaming out.
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Author: Matt Fitzgerald