If you’re a San Diego Chargers fan, you’re probably getting a bit tired of controversy and speculation by now. Amongst talk of relocation to Los Angeles, a downtown stadium bid which is still hotly debated, and now the organisation’s failure to sign first round draft pick Joey Bosa to his rookie contract.
Bosa, the highest drafted non quarterback in 2016, has held out from training camp in a dispute about the offset language in his contract – basically an agreement that the Chargers pay the difference between the value of his contract should he sign with another team during his rookie contract, and the value of his contract with the Chargers, should he be released, versus the whole guaranteed value of the contract – and the deferred payment of his signing bonus, which is the bigger issue.
Since the introduction of the current collective bargaining agreement, which came into force in 2011, many teams with top picks have paid all of their first round pick’s signing bonus by the end of the player’s first season in the NFL rather than deferring it at least in part until the next season, so what Bosa is asking for is not something that is out of the ordinary.
In fact, it’s something entirely out of the ordinary for the Chargers to be allowing their number three overall pass rush prospect to hold out over something that they claim to be driven by team precedent – Their history of having both offset language and deferred bonuses in rookie contracts since the CBA was brought into force. What they are ignoring is that it is league precedent for one or both of these clauses to be removed from top five rookie contracts. Indeed, Jared Goff’s rookie contract includes a payment of his signing bonus by the end of his first season with the Rams, and no offset language whatsoever. This is also the case with Jacksonville’s Jalen Ramsey.
To make matters worse for San Diego, Bosa and his camp have been very open about their willingness to compromise on one or the other of these points. They would reportedly particularly like it if the signing bonus was paid up front, but they are willing to settle for deferment of this if the offset language was to be removed from the contract. Various news sources have reported that Bosa and the Chargers haven’t spoken in ten days and his mother has even come out and said that she wishes that he ‘pulled an Eli Manning’ on draft day.
For those unfamiliar, Eli Manning forced through a draft day trade away from San Diego resulting in Philip Rivers, Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding becoming Chargers, amongst concerns held by both Eli and Archie Manning about the Chargers organisation, who six years prior had missed out on Peyton Manning and ended up taking Ryan Leaf. The organisation’s handling of the Leaf situation is at least one of the reasons it is thought that the Mannings pushed so hard for Eli not to play in San Diego.
Looking at the way the Chargers have been run over the last 20 years or so, it is hardly surprising that they should be making such a mess of signing Joey Bosa. It is simply a case of an organisation refusing to get up to speed with how the modern NFL works. Although last year’s San Diego team had a miserable time with injuries, it’s not entirely a surprise that they picked in the top 5. It’s clear that the Spanos family and their employees are talking about principle, when in reality they are demonstrating a tight grip on their purse strings whilst they look to push for a move to Los Angeles.
It’s perhaps time for San Diego to stop looking to their own internal precedent, and instead look at the rest of the league. Their unwillingness to even talk to Bosa is sending a message to future draft picks and even free agents – this isn’t a place you want to come.