Insiders

NFL AM: Contract Impasse Keeps Joey Bosa Away From Chargers Camp

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He was considered by some to be the best player in the 2016 NFL Draft, and the Chargers’ somewhat surprising pick of Joey Bosa at No. 3 overall affirmed that. But there’s another side to Bosa that caused him to slide down many draft boards and San Diego is getting a glimpse of it now.

Chargers players reported to training camp on Friday, but Bosa was not among them, and it seems unlikely now that he and the San Diego front office will come to an agreement on a contract that will get him to camp on time for the start of workouts on Saturday morning. Bosa is one of only two first round picks in the league that remain unsigned, the other being No. 28 overall pick Joshua Garnett of the San Francisco 49ers.

At this stage of the game, there isn’t much to negotiate in a rookie contract, value is determined by each player’s draft slot and pretty much set in stone from there. However, there are minor details to iron out like offset language and the scheduled payment of the player’s signing bonus, and both appear to be hangups for Bosa and the Chargers at the moment. The biggest hurdle is reportedly the bonus, which Bosa and his team want paid mostly upfront but which San Diego wants to extend out over the length of the rookie contract, as is and has been team policy

Bosa has already missed part of OTAs and all of San Diego’s mandatory minicamp due to the contract dispute and the franchise is already less than thrilled with how long this has dragged on.

“It really just comes down to generally this — there’s some things that are negotiable, and money always is negotiable, obviously — but there’s certain things in contracts language-wise, whether you’re picked third, 33rd or 203rd, there’s certain things of consistency and doing things the same way for everyone on the team,”said Chargers general manager Tom Telesco. “We’re far from uncommon with how we work. I know a lot of other teams probably operate the same way. We try to keep some things constant in everyone’s contract, whether you’re Philip Rivers or the 85th guy on the football team. So that’s kind of where we are. We’re still working through it.”

There’s no denying Bosa’s talent on the field. He proved time and again over three years at Ohio State University that he can be a dominant defensive player. But his final season as a Buckeye was marred by inconsistent play and bookend events to the season that left some questions about his character. Bosa was suspended for the Ohio State season opener due to a “violation of athletic department policy” which was later reported to be related to marijuana. And at the end of a disappointing final season at OSU, Bosa was ejected in the first quarter of the Fiesta Bowl for a targeting penalty, bringing an unceremonious end to his college career.

The two events stuck with talent evaluators during the draft process and Bosa, who seemed like a lock to go first overall after his stellar sophomore season, reportedly began to slide down draft boards. Of course on draft day, after two teams traded up to reach for quarterbacks, Bosa became the first non-QB taken, re-solidifying his status as the top player in the draft. But the red flags remain, and they’re good reason for the Chargers to want to protect themselves with contract language. That’s especially true as it relates to the marijuana issue, as suspensions for failed drug tests begin to mount around the league.

San Diego is right to try to protect themselves and Bosa and his camp are right to fight for what they want as well, but at some point they have to meet in the middle, and as training camp gets started, that time has come.

DION JORDAN GETS PARTIAL REINSTATEMENT

Speaking of No. 3 overall picks with issues, the Chargers need only look back a few drafts to understand why they need protections in Bosa’s contract. That’s where the story of 2013 first round pick Dion Jordan by the Miami Dolphins becomes a cautionary tale.

Since being drafted by Miami, Jordan has been suspended three times for violations of the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. The third such suspension, which was levied in April of 2015, cost Jordan the entire 2015 season. On Thursday, Jordan was granted a conditional reinstatement from that suspension. But he has a long way to go to get back on the field and must complete counseling and pass another league evaluation later this summer before he is granted his full reinstatement.

If he completes those steps properly, Jordan could be back with the Dolphins for Week 1. As it relates to his return, Jordan is saying all the right things, but his actions will have to speak louder.

“I’m not about to waste it. I can’t waste it,” Jordan told Tom Pelissero of USA TODAY Sports of his latest opportunity. “Who doesn’t love running out in front of 30,000-plus fans and you get that rush? But it’s also things that you can get that rush from that can be very satisfying and can carry you on to a successful life after football. I just turned 26 years old, so life starts to hit you in the face. Who are you outside of those shoulder pads and helmet?” Jordan asked. “And it’s weird, but I feel like it’s a blessing for me at this point in time to think about it, instead of waiting ’til they really tell me I can’t play football no more.”

Jordan has been a disappointment for the Dolphins both on and off the field since the team made him the first defensive player off the board in 2013. He struggled to adjust to the league and never made an impact or a start during his rookie season, then was suspended twice during his second season and was mostly invisible when he was on the field. The Oregon product believes the suspension for all of last season gives him a fresh start, but he’ll not only have to prove to the league he’s clean, but he’ll also have to prove to the Dolphins that he’s the guy they drafted, not the guy who was effectively useless to them over the first 26 games of his NFL career.

Jordan’s progress will be an interesting thing to monitor at Dolphins camp where, for the first time since his draft selection, not much is expected of him. With outstanding veteran pieces around him now like Ndamukong Suh and Mario Williams, and most of the pressure off of him, perhaps Jordan can make a successful comeback in 2016.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys