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Let's try to make sense of Joey Bosa's holdout with the Chargers

Now that Joey Bosa's extended contract stalemate is over, let's look back at what happened before he reached an agreement with San Diego.

UPDATE 8/29: The San Diego Chargers have finally signed Joey Bosa after a long, dramatic stalemate over offset language and Bosa's signing bonus. The two parties compromised, with the team getting its way on offset language, and Bosa receives the largest signing bonus in the history of the Chargers. Let's take a look back at what took place leading up to the Chargers and Bosa reaching an agreement.

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The Chargers hit the field for training camp last month. Their first-round draft pick, however, didn't join them. Instead, defensive end Joey Bosa, who was selected with the third overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, decided to hold out over a contract dispute. Until Monday, he remained the only rookie draft pick who hadn’t actually signed with his team.

The team released a statement last Wednesday saying it had provided Bosa's representatives with its best offer, which Bosa's side has declined. According to the Chargers, the team offered an initial signing bonus that is the largest any player has received in the last two drafts, more money in this calendar year than every rookie but second overall pick Carson Wentz, and the largest payment and highest percentage of signing bonus paid to any Chargers player since the implementation of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.

What the statement from the team did not clarify was the timing of the payment of the entire signing bonus and the offset language, which dictates what the Chargers would owe Bosa in terms of guaranteed money if they would decline to pick up his fifth-year option. These are the main issues keeping the Chargers and Bosa from reaching an agreement.

Bosa did participate in OTAs and impressed in rookie minicamp, but his holdout began at the beginning of mandatory veteran minicamp on June 14. He hasn’t taken the field since.

At one point in early August, the team and Bosa reportedly hadn’t spoken in over a week, and negotiations had gone so poorly that Bosa’s mother, Cheryl, wishes her son hadn’t been drafted by San Diego at all, saying it would have been better if the family had chosen to "pull an Eli Manning," a scenario that Chargers fans remember all too well.

In 2004, Manning’s agent, Tom Condon, warned the Chargers days before the draft that Manning would sit out the entire season if the Chargers decided to pick him. The Chargers selected Manning with the first overall pick anyway, and ended up trading him to the Giants.

But just because Bosa’s mom is fed up with the contract stalemate doesn’t mean we’ll see Bosa land elsewhere. This is a complex situation with a few possible outcomes.

Why hasn’t Bosa signed?

The impasse between Bosa and the Chargers centers around a failure to agree on offset language and Bosa’s signing bonus deferment.

The current collective bargaining agreement made negotiating with rookies a bit easier for NFL teams, but offset language remains a sticking point, and it certainly is a huge factor for the Chargers in this situation.

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.

A lack of offset language essentially allows a player to double dip and earn money from two teams. If there’s offset language included in the contract, it lets the original team off the hook. Obviously, the Chargers want offset language, and Bosa doesn’t.


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The other issue, signing bonus deferment, is very simple. Bosa wants his signing bonus now. The team would prefer to spread it out over time. Bosa’s camp has repeatedly expressed a willingness to compromise and accept either the offset language or the signing bonus deferral, but the Chargers appear unwilling to budge.

Where do things stand between Bosa and the Chargers?

There’s no point in beating around the bush — the back-and-forth between the two sides is not encouraging.

The Chargers are mainly claiming precedent as the reason for the impasse, though they have not been in this situation since the implementation of the current CBA. Precedent around the league certainly supports compromising with Bosa on either, or both, of these issues.

Since 2012, each third overall pick has signed a contract that either contained offset language or a deferred signing bonus. Both Jared Goff and Jalen Ramsey, the players selected first and fifth overall in the 2016 draft, signed contracts with no offset language but with the signing bonus fully guaranteed in their rookie seasons.

Meanwhile, Bosa’s holdout is the longest since the new CBA went into effect in 2011. Justin Blackmon held out until Aug. 6 prior to his rookie season in 2012 as he and the Jacksonville Jaguars struggled to come to terms. Blackmon signed after the Jaguars offered him a fully guaranteed four-year, $18.5 million contract. In total, Blackmon’s holdout lasted 12 full days.

To find a holdout longer than Bosa’s, you’d have to go back to the 2009 season, when then-rookie Michael Crabtree missed the entire preseason and part of the regular season before finally signing with the 49ers on Oct. 7.

How will this play out?

There are a few different ways this situation could turn out for Bosa and the Chargers.

Bosa could come to an agreement with San Diego and sign with the team. Despite how long it’s taken them, the two sides still have plenty of time to work something out. Bosa can sign any time between now and the Tuesday after Week 10, which is Nov. 15. After that date, Bosa cannot play at all in the 2016 season.

If Bosa fails to sign with the Chargers before Nov. 15, they retain the rights to him through the end of the 2016 league year even though he wouldn’t be able to play. After the league year, the team’s rights to Bosa expire, and he could enter the 2017 draft. This, however, is an extremely unlikely outcome.

The Chargers could have chosen to trade Bosa to another team, but the deadline for that was Tuesday, Aug. 9, and it didn't come to pass. There was no indication the Chargers had any interest in shopping Bosa to other teams, and this was always an unlikely outcome.

Another possible if improbable outcome would be a sign-and-trade scenario. The Chargers could sign Bosa and then trade him to another team, but San Diego would take a huge cap hit in terms of dead money, so it's highly doubtful the Chargers would pursue this option considering they would just end up paying Bosa to play for a different team.

Bosa's teammate Antonio Gates, who has been through his own holdout situation with the Chargers, suggested it's time for Bosa to take control of the situation.

"My advice to any player that's going through any kind of contract situation is that, at one point, you've got to be a man and you've got to understand that you've got to get ready to play," Gates said via the San Diego Union Tribune.

The most likely outcome to this situation is that Bosa will sign with the Chargers, although that doesn’t seem to be imminent. The longer this drags on, the worse it looks for everyone involved. And right now, a rookie who could contribute immediately is missing valuable time to adapt to the NFL and prepare for the season.