The Jets’ Zach Wilson era has gotten off to a deflating start.
Wilson, the rookie quarterback and new face of the franchise, was not in attendance at practice, so what should have been an exciting first day of training camp was overshadowed by a cloud of uncertainty.
Wilson and 49ers quarterback Trey Lance, the Nos. 2 and 3 picks, are the only two of the 259 draft picks who have yet to sign a contract.
So, regardless of when Wilson signs his contract and rides in as the starter, Mike White is expected to throw the first pass of training camp, highlighting the Jets’ desperate need for an experienced backup quarterback.
White, a former Cowboys fifth-round pick in 2018, has yet to throw a pass in an NFL regular-season game, but the Jets did not follow the common NFL blueprint of pairing Wilson with a well-traveled mentor, as former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold did with Josh McCown.
The stumbling block in negotiations is thought to be offset language in Wilson’s contract. This is the legalese that allows teams to recoup money if a player is released before the end of his contract and signs with another team. If that unlikely scenario plays out – Washington cutting 2019 first-round quarterback Dwayne Haskins before the end of his second season – Wilson and the Jets will have even more problems.
Wilson’s four-year contract will be worth around $35.1 million, including a $22.9 million signing bonus, due to the rookie wage scale. Those predetermined figures are supposed to make negotiations go smoothly, but 90 days after Wilson’s selection, the Jets and Wilson’s agent are still at odds. Another potential stumbling block could be the payment of Wilson’s fully guaranteed signing bonus.
James Morgan, who was the No. 3 or No. 4 quarterback on the depth chart as a rookie in 2020, is the only other quarterback in Jets camp.
As a rookie in 2018, Darnold missed the first three days (two practices) of camp while his agent and former Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan worked out the details. He was still the starter for the first game of the season.