Bosa has no real leverage in his contract dispute with the team that picked him No. 3 overall in April. Yeah, technically he could sit out a year and go back into the draft, but that doesn’t make any sense. The current dispute is, in part, about Bosa not wanting to wait until March to get his full signing bonus. Sit out the year, and he’d have to wait until June to get any money at all. And it’s pretty doubtful anyone would take him as high as No. 3 after he spent a year not playing, which means he’d end up with less than what he’s being offered right now. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, with the rookie wage scale and slotted salaries for rookies, Bosa can’t make money by holding out. He can only lose it.
So we all know how this will end. What the Chargers did Wednesday, issuing a public statement detailing aspects of their offer and promising to reduce it because they can no longer count on having him for a full 16-game season this year, amounts to bullying. And it speaks to a hard line they had no cause to take at the start of a relationship with a player this important to their future.
To reset this thing quickly: Bosa wants the Chargers to either (A) include no offset language in his four-year rookie contract or (B) pay him his entire signing bonus before the end of the 2016 calendar year. He argues that every No. 3 pick since the new CBA went into effect in 2011 has received one or the other of those concessions. The Chargers argue that they’ve never made either and aren’t about to start now.
It’s a silly dispute, in part because the Chargers are applying ill-fitting logic. Until this year, they hadn’t had a pick higher than No. 11 since 2004. On average, their first-round pick during that 11-year stretch was No. 18. It’s not crazy for a player to expect a team to make some concessions for a No. 3 pick that they wouldn’t make for a No. 18 pick. Unless they expect to be picking in the top 5 a lot, the Chargers wouldn’t damage themselves in future negotiations by giving on one or the other of Bosa’s demands.
But they stand on principle because they can. Because this year’s No. 4 pick, Ezekiel Elliott, deferred $6.3 million of his signing bonus until March of next year and this year’s No. 2 pick, Carson Wentz, gave the Eagles offset language and deferred $1 million of his bonus into next January. Doesn’t matter what happened with last year’s No. 3 pick or the one before that -- Bosa got picked between two guys who deferred money and behind a guy who gave in on the offsets. The current market supports the team’s position, as irrational as it may seem.
And it really is irrational. The Chargers don’t need offset language, because the only reason they’d cut Bosa in the next four years is if he did something like get injured (in which case insurance would cover them) or get suspended for drugs (in which case his guarantees would void and the offsets would be moot).
The Chargers appear to be angry, which is understandable. They took a guy at No. 3 and he didn’t make it to camp before school started. They’re trying to get a stadium built, and it’s tougher to get people to the polls to get their team to stay if they think that team is fumbling a negotiation everyone else has pulled off easily since the rookie wage scale became a reality. Their decision to take this thing public makes sense as a ploy to jolt the negotiations past its current stubborn sticking point.
Maybe it will work. Maybe the idea of not making a full year’s salary as a rookie will scare Bosa into caving, or into changing agents to someone who will. So far, he and his family have stood firm in their position, and it’s possible they could continue to do so. He’s already held out longer than any other draft pick has held out under the five-year-old current system. Maybe he’s a trailblazer.
But more than likely, he’s not. More than likely, he’ll sign before long, even if it’s a deal he doesn’t like very much. And when that happens, what happened Wednesday isn’t exactly getting the relationship off on the right foot. The Chargers are going to win this in the end. They didn’t have to bully their way to the winner’s circle.