The Jets’ Zach Wilson era is off to a delayed and deflating start.
What should have been an exciting first day of training camp instead was covered by a cloud of uncertainty because Wilson, the rookie quarterback and new face of the franchise, was not in attendance at practice.
Wilson and 49ers quarterback Trey Lance – the No. 2 and No. 3 picks, respectively – are the only two of the 259 draft selections who haven’t signed contracts.
So, Mike White is expected to throw the first pass of training camp, which further exposed the Jets’ glaring need for an experienced backup quarterback regardless of when Wilson finalizes his deal and rides in to become the starter. White, a former fifth-round draft pick of the Cowboys in 2018, has not thrown a pass in an NFL regular-season game but the Jets didn’t follow the common NFL blueprint of getting a well-traveled mentor for Wilson, like former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had with Josh McCown.
The negotiations holdup is believed to be over offset language in Wilson’s contract. That is the legalese that allows teams to recoup money if a player is cut before his contract is over and signs with another team. If that rare scenario plays out – 2019 first-round quarterback Dwayne Haskins was cut by Washington before finishing his second season – Wilson and the Jets, of course, would have bigger problems.
Because of the rookie wage scale, Wilson’s four-year contract will be worth about $35.1 million with a $22.9 million signing bonus. Those preset numbers are supposed to make negotiations go smoothly, but the Jets and Wilson’s agent remain in a stand-off 90 days after his selection was made. Another sticking point could be the timing of paying out Wilson’s signing bonus, which is fully guaranteed.
The only other quarterback in Jets camp is James Morgan, who was the No. 3 or No. 4 quarterback on the depth chart as a rookie in 2020.
Darnold missed the first three days (two practices) of camp as a rookie in 2018, while his agent and former Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan negotiated the finer points. He was still the Week 1 starter.