Originally Published: July 27, 2018 7:41 p.m.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — There was no sign of Sam Darnold as the New York Jets opened training camp.
The No. 3 overall draft pick officially became a contract holdout when the team began its first practice of the summer Friday without its prized rookie quarterback.
“He’s not here,” coach Todd Bowles said, “so I’m coaching the other (89) guys.”
Darnold joins Chicago linebacker Roquan Smith, the No. 8 choice, as the only unsigned picks from the entire draft.
Under the NFL’s labor agreement, contract holdouts by rookies are uncommon because deals are slotted based on draft position. Darnold will receive a four-year, fully guaranteed contract worth $30.247 million, including a $20 million signing bonus.
“It’s part of the business,” Bowles said. “We’ve got two other quarterbacks who can play, too.”
The dispute seems to hang on contract language. If a player is cut during his rookie contract, offset language provides the team with financial protection. Not having offset language allows a player to receive his salary from the team that cut him, as well as get paid by another team that signs him.
Offset language is common in rookie deals. Both Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick by Cleveland, and Josh Allen, seventh overall by Buffalo — the quarterbacks drafted before and after Darnold — have offsets in their contracts. In fact, Allen and Darnold share the same agent in Jimmy Sexton.
“Any time you’re not here, you lose something,” Bowles said. “It’s been a day. Obviously, when he comes in, we’ll get him caught up. Right now, I’ve got (89) other guys to worry about.”
The 21-year-old Darnold is expected to compete for the Jets’ starting job with 39-year-old Josh McCown, the incumbent who is coming off the best season of his career, and Teddy Bridgewater, working his way back from a knee injury nearly two years ago.
Both McCown and Bridgewater received an increased workload during the team’s 2½-hour practice as the only signed quarterbacks on the roster.
“I feel like I can have some ice cream tonight,” a smiling McCown said. “Maybe an extra bowl or so. It was good work from our standpoint, Teddy and I. We’re excited about it, both as competitors and loving the game. You do what they ask you to do and practice as hard as you can. ... We’ll be excited when Sam gets here, obviously, but until then, we’re going to carry the load and be excited to do it.”
Darnold is considered the future of the franchise, and he impressed his teammates and coaches during offseason workouts and minicamp with his work ethic, ability to quickly grasp the playbook and to not repeat mistakes. The former USC star’s progress will be the top story line for the Jets during training camp.
When Darnold shows up, of course.
“Obviously, from a learning standpoint, you want to be here as a soon as possible,” McCown said, adding that the players understand the business side. “There’s no substitute for being here.”
Darnold acknowledged during the offseason that he had to make several adjustments since joining the Jets, including calling plays in the huddle — something he hadn’t done much at USC. He also said the increased pace of the game is evident, even in practice.
But the Jets are confident Darnold will be a quick study — and a potential franchise-type quarterback.
After failing to lure Kirk Cousins to New York in free agency, the Jets positioned themselves to be able to get one of the top available quarterbacks in the draft. They moved up three spots from No. 6 overall and acquired the third selection from Indianapolis in a trade in March.
It cost them the No. 6 pick, two second-round selections this year and a second-rounder next year, but general manager Mike Maccagnan and the Jets were willing to pay the steep price for a QB who could re-energize the franchise.
After Cleveland took Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick and the Giants selected running back Saquon Barkley at No. 2, the Jets found themselves staring at the scenario they dreamed of: getting the guy they wanted all along in Darnold.
Now, they just need to get him under contract and on the field.
“He can bring so much value to this team,” Bridgewater said of Darnold. “We know how important he is to the quarterback room, as a young guy, also. We look forward to him being here and pick up right where he left off in the spring.”
NOTES: S Rontez Miles was the only Jets player to open camp on the physically unable to perform list. Miles tore cartilage in his left knee during organized team activities in May. ... DL Courtney Upshaw, signed after a three-day tryout during minicamp last month, is on the active/non-football injury list. Upshaw spent the last two seasons with Atlanta after being a second-round draft pick by Baltimore out of Alabama in 2012. ... RB Eli McGuire left practice with a foot injury. Bowles was not immediately certain of the severity or if McGuire might miss time. ... WR Terrelle Pryor (ankle) and S Marcus Maye (ankle) sat out team drills.