FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — There was no sign of Sam Darnold as the New York Jets opened training camp.
The No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft officially became a contract holdout when the team began its first practice of the summer Friday without its prized rookie quarterback.
Darnold joins Chicago linebacker Roquan Smith, the No. 8 choice, as the only unsigned picks from the entire draft.
Under the NFL’s labor agreement, contract holdouts are uncommon because deals are slotted based on draft position. Darnold will receive a four-year, fully guaranteed contract worth $30.247 million, including a $20 million signing bonus.
The dispute seems to hang on contract language. If a player is cut during his rookie contract, offset language provides the team with financial protection. Not having offset language allows a player to receive his salary from the team that cut him, as well as get paid by another team that signs him.
Offset language is common in rookie deals. Both Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick by Cleveland, and Josh Allen, seventh overall by Buffalo — the quarterbacks drafted before and after Darnold — have offsets in their contracts. In fact, Allen and Darnold share the same agent in Jimmy Sexton.
The 21-year-old Darnold is expected to compete for the Jets’ starting job with 39-year-old Josh McCown, the incumbent who is coming off the best season of his career, and Teddy Bridgewater, working his way back from a severe knee injury nearly two years ago.
Darnold is considered the future of the franchise, and impressed his teammates and coaches during offseason workouts and minicamp with his work ethic, ability to quickly grasp the playbook and to not repeat mistakes. The former USC star’s progress will be the top storyline for the Jets this summer during training camp.
When Darnold shows up, of course.
Darnold acknowledged during the offseason that he had to make several adjustments since joining the Jets, including calling plays in the huddle — something he hadn’t done much of at USC. He also said the increased pace of the game is evident, even in practice.
But the Jets are confident Darnold will be a quick study — and a potential franchise-type quarterback.
After failing to lure Kirk Cousins to New York in free agency, the Jets positioned themselves to be able to get one of the top available quarterbacks in the draft. They moved up three spots from No. 6 overall and acquired the third selection from Indianapolis in a trade in March. It cost them the No. 6 pick, two second-round selections this year and a second-rounder next year, but general manager Mike Maccagnan and the Jets were willing to pay the steep price for a QB who could re-energize the franchise.
After Cleveland took Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick and the Giants selected running back Saquan Barkley at No. 2, the Jets found themselves staring at the scenario they dreamed of: getting the guy they wanted all along in Darnold.
Now, they just need to get him under contract and on the field.