The NFL went into a lockout to prevent things like this from happening. It seemed to be one of the only things that the NFL Players’ Association and the league’s owners agreed upon in that lockout.
Yet, somehow, there’s a rookie holdout.
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Joey Bosa, the No. 3 overall pick from the 2016 NFL Draft, has still not signed with the San Diego Chargers, and there appears to be no end in sight for the holdout.
Wednesday, the Chargers took a screenshot of a Notes document and posted it to their Twitter account. It wouldn’t be fair to call it passive-aggressive toward Bosa because there was nothing passive about it.
Anyone who is familiar with the Chargers’ way of doing business knows that’s not saying much.
Bosa’s holdout, which is now at 24 days, is the longest for a rookie since the NFL’s new CBA was ratified in 2011.
Article 7 of the NFL’s CBA might as well be called the “Chargers’ provision.” San Diego was so notorious for penny-pinching with rookie contracts that the team — just as much as the record-setting contracts being handed to No. 1 overall picks — was responsible for the NFL’s rookie pay scale, which went into place with the new CBA. The league had to prevent teams from underpaying — it messed up the market and broke the draft process.
Remember when Eli Manning refused to sign with the Chargers after the team drafted him No. 1 overall in 2004? He knew the Chargers’ reputation for nickel-and-diming rookies, who didn’t have much, if any, leverage. Manning and his advisors saw that in 2001, LaDainian Tomlinson held out 30 days as the Chargers refused to pay him the fair market value of a No. 5 pick. They saw that Quentin Jammer held out for 50 days in 2002 for the same reasons. Manning wasn’t going through that nonsense. He had leverage before the draft — don’t draft me, I won’t sign — and he used it, and he avoided the mess. He took a PR hit — the Chargers were all too happy to participate in that piling on — but he didn’t have to deal with the San Diego ownership.
And don’t think the Chargers learned their lesson — the player San Diego received when it traded Manning on draft day, Philip Rivers, held out 25 days that preseason. The year after that, Shawne Merriman held out seven.
Apparently, many are still not seeing the pattern. It’s not that the Chargers repeatedly drafted “punks" with “bad attitudes” and “entitlements” — comments leveled against Bosa this offseason (and that’s just in my social media mentions) — it’s that they’re cheap.
The new CBA was supposed to streamline the rookie contract negotiation for teams and players, and 999 out of 1,000 times, it has. But sure enough, the Chargers were the outlier.
Here’s the crux of the Bosa-Chargers showdown:
● Bosa is owed $25 million. That’s what No. 3 overall picks get paid. Bosa can’t negotiate for more, and the Chargers aren’t getting out of paying that much.
● The Chargers want to include offset language in the contract. Offset language would allow the team to not pay Bosa in the fifth year of his contract, should he be cut before then. Without the offset language, the Chargers could be on the hook for paying Bosa while another team signs him to another deal.
● The Chargers want to break up Bosa’s signing bonus, which is worth roughly $17 million of the $25 million Bosa is going to be paid by San Diego.
● Since the new CBA has been ratified, there has not been a No. 3 overall pick whose contract included both offset language and a split signing bonus.
The Chargers are using public relations to leverage a rookie to take an unprecedented deal. They’re calling him out on social media for turning down “best offers” and then making passive-aggressive statements like “we’ll restructure our offer since Joey will be unable to contribute for the full 16-game season."
And you wonder why that organization has found it so difficult to get a new stadium in San Diego.
Yet even Tomlinson, who experienced the Chargers’ manipulation of rookies firsthand, is siding with the team.
"So I would tell him remember he’s in control. If he wants to be out here, tell his agent to make the deal get done,” Tomlinson, who, again, held out for 30 days for similar reasons in 2001, told NFL Network.
It’s amazing how much you can forget in 15 years.
Could Bosa come out and blast the team? No. San Diego is the only team that can sign him, and to put them on blast would be bad business, even in a holdout.
Jon Durr/Getty Images
Here’s the only question that needs to be answered: Why should Bosa take a deal that no player in his position — that being the third overall pick — has ever accepted? Why should he be the only one who has to give the team that picked him two wins in contract negotiations?
The Chargers have the money and yet they have a track record of strong-arming rookies to save a few bucks. Good for Bosa for standing up to them. He can take this thing all the way into 2017. Sure, he’ll take a big PR hit, but there always will be thousands, if not millions, of fans who think that NFL players should play for free and don’t seem to get the concept of market value.
If Bosa and the Chargers fail to come to an agreement this season, Bosa could re-enter the NFL Draft. The problem with that is that NFL teams almost assuredly will give Bosa the ridiculous “distraction” label and knock the elite prospect’s stock down. He’ll end up making less money than he would have gotten from the Chargers, and he will have lost a year of his career.
If you don’t think the Chargers don’t know that, you still haven’t picked up on the theme.
The Chargers are cheap, and Bosa is justified and steadfast, but the team eventually will win.
Meanwhile, the NFLPA sits idly by — what’s new? — and Bosa’s reputation as a player continues to take on debt it might not be able to pay back.