The Chargers did something stunning Wednesday, releasing the details of their contract negotiation with rookie defensive end Joey Bosa, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and potentially snapping what had already been a fray-thin relationship.
- Teams almost never release the nitty-gritty of negotiations, instead trying to at least maintain the appearance that they’re taking the high road. "No comment" isn’t usually a sign that things are progressing well, but appearances are important.
- The Chargers — maybe out of desperation, stupidity or shortsightedness — did not do that.
Their statement about the Bosa situation reads like an attempt to reverse the momentum of public opinion back in their favor. Instead, the Chargers may have accelerated it against themselves.
Let’s recap what Bosa wants, and what the Chargers say they offered.
Bosa wants one of two things, and both are reasonable
In fact, what Bosa is asking for have been boilerplate concessions by NFL teams under the new collective bargaining agreement. First, he wants his money sooner. Not more money, mind you, just more of his guaranteed signing bonus paid within the calendar year instead of having a large portion of it deferred to next March. Second, he does not want his contract to include offset language. SB Nation’s recap of the situation can explain that:
All contracts for rookies selected in the first round of the NFL draft under the current CBA cover four years with a choice for teams to pick up the fifth-year option, extending the rookie contract one season. Teams want offset language included in case they decide to cut a player in his fourth season. Without offset language, the player is entitled to all of the money his original team was supposed to pay in his fourth season, and he can sign a new contract with another team and also earn all of that money.
Nearly every top-5 NFL draft pick since 2012 has received at least one of those two concession — the last three No. 1 overall picks, Jameis Winston, Jadeveon Clowney and Eric Fisher, and the No. 4 pick in this year's draft, Ezekiel Elliott, are the exceptions. Every player selected No. 3 overall under the new CBA has been granted a concession. The Chargers have refused, saying that they would be breaking precedent by giving in. And there is a precedent: The Chargers have never offered to exclude offset language from a rookie contract.
* Technically, No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz is another because he’s receiving the last million of his $17 million signing bonus in January, but that’s not much of a deferment and it’s reportedly for tax purposes.
The problem is, they’re also dealing with an unprecedented situation. The Chargers have never had a top-10 pick under the new CBA — not since 2004, in fact, when they drafted Eli Manning and swapped him for Philip Rivers. By league precedent, they are very much in the wrong.
The Chargers’ statement was dumb
Here’s the Chargers’ statement, including their reported offer:
Statement from the San Diego Chargers on defensive end Joey Bosa. pic.twitter.com/BayBGeN22x— San Diego Chargers (@Chargers) August 24, 2016
Here’s that offer point by point.
An initial signing bonus payment that is larger than any player in the League has received in the last two drafts.
That’s good! But that’s not what Bosa was asking for. More money up front doesn’t mean more money for the year, and as Bosa’s agent pointed out, the "time value" of money is a real thing. The earlier you receive your money, the earlier you can invest, and the more that investment will be worth at a later date. This is a reasonable concern for someone who plays an incredibly dangerous sport.
More money in this calendar year than every player in this year’s draft except one (QB Carson Wentz)
Bosa was the No. 3 overall pick, so the only surprise here is that he’s getting more money than Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who was taken No. 1 overall. Thing is, the Rams conceded offset language to Goff, which the Chargers refuse to do for Bosa. And Bosa has already said he’d be fine with a deferred signing bonus if he received an offset language concession.
The largest payment and the highest percentage of signing bonus received in the first calendar year of any Chargers’ first-round selection since the inception of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (2011).
The Chargers’ next-highest first pick in the NFL Draft in that time period was D.J. Fluker at No. 11 in 2013. Of course Bosa was offered a better deal. This is a weird argument. Maybe the Chargers felt like they needed a third bullet point?
The Chargers’ statement was devious and you shouldn’t like them
Bosa’s holdout is now the longest by a rookie since Michael Crabtree waited until Oct. 7 to sign with the 49ers in 2009. The 2011 CBA instituted a rookie pay scale in part to ensure that holdouts wouldn’t happen. The Chargers are now the only team since to somehow flub this up. Everyone got mad at them, so they released a statement that lays out their offer to Bosa in what seems like an attempt to make him the bad guy.
If that’s what the Chargers are trying to do, then they are now the clubhouse leaders as the pettiest franchise in the NFL. Here is a list of grievances:
- Threatening relocation for 15 years, and playing out what could be a lame duck season if they don’t get a downtown stadium that would cost $1.8 billion, most of which they expect the city of San Diego to pay.
- Repeatedly treating beloved veterans with indifference, like fining safety Eric Weddle $10,000 for watching his daughter perform a halftime dance ceremony, or chasing LaDainian Tomlinson out of town, or making Junior Seau feel unwelcome, or releasing Rodney Harrison only to watch his career be resurrected in New England where he won two Super Bowls.
- Disrespecting fans throughout all of this — like creating one of the most expensive gameday experiences in the NFL, or using a hired lawyer to interface with the fanbase when the fanbase was uncertain whether it would have a hometown team any longer, or telling fans to "take a chill pill" when they criticized the team instead of acknowledging that most of these problems would go away if they could ever win consistently.
A lot of NFL teams struggle. Few teams struggle and still have the gall to try to dictate terms to everyone they depend on, like the Chargers have. They consistently operate without regard for their fans’ or players’ interests, and have middling success to show for it.
The Chargers’ reaction to Bosa’s contract demands is an example of the difference between a franchise that is merely incompetent and one that is deeply selfish. The Chargers could have kept quiet — most teams would have — but instead sacrificed goodwill with a potential franchise star and a weary fanbase that is growing increasingly tired of the team, all in a vain hope of getting their way.
Bosa is likely going to miss games this season, and could reenter the 2017 NFL Draft if the Chargers don’t sign him at all. The Chargers would lose their draft pick in that case, having nothing to show for their obstinance except what is shaping up to be a mediocre season coming off a 4-12 record in 2015.
The Chargers, as a franchise, deserve all of this.
Correction: An earlier version of this piece said Ezekiel Elliott was the only top 5 pick under the new CBA to not receive a concession on his signing bonus or offset language. That was incorrect. In addition to Elliott, the No. 1 overall picks in three drafts -- Jameis Winston, Jadeveon Clowney and Eric Fisher -- also accepted a deferred signing bonus payment and offset language, according to Joel Corry at CBS Sports.