Let's make a deal -- or not

July, 17, 2013
7/17/13
1:36
PM ET
With training camp approaching, only 29 draft picks remain unsigned leaguewide, three of whom are Jets -- Dee Milliner, Sheldon Richardson and Geno Smith. What's taking so long?

John Idzik has a reputation for being a hardline negotiator, and -- like many GMs -- he's being challenged on the issue of offset language in fully guaranteed contracts. This has become a hot-button topic around the league, and it's believed to be the primary hurdle in the Milliner and Richardson negotiations.

Since the current CBA went into effect in 2011, the Jets have always demanded offsets for their first-round picks. In fact, the Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples contracts include offset language. From all indications, Idzik has no intention of changing the organizational policy.

But here's the rub: More and more teams are doing deals without offsets. In fact, the three top-10 picks who have signed -- Luke Joeckel (Chiefs), Ezekiel Ansah (Lions) and Tavon Austin (Rams) -- all received contracts with no offset clauses. Milliner was the ninth pick, Richardson the 13th. Thus, they will sign four-year deals for $12.66 million and $10.05 million, respectively, give or take a few nickels. Total value is the easy part.

The rookie wage scale has streamlined negotiations, but the offset matter has complicated things a bit. Hey, agents and teams need to argue about something, right?

Offset language means teams recoup future guaranteed money if they cut a player and he signs elsewhere. Whatever the player earns from his new team is subtracted from what the old team owes him. It prevents "double dipping" by the player. The Jets gave a no-offset deal to Mark Sanchez last year (pre-Idzik), but they haven't done it for a rookie.

Another issue in the Milliner and Richardson talks could be signing-bonus payout. I'm told that Idzik is a staunch believer in holding on to as much money as possible, deferring bonus payments.

Idzik is on the clock because the Jets' rookies are due to report Monday. They can't afford to miss any time, especially Smith, who is battling Sanchez for the quarterback job. So why the delay with Smith?

Smith is one of only three second-round picks who remain unsigned. Because his contract won't be fully guaranteed, there's no issue with offset language. However, it's believed that the Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick rookie deals from 2011 are impacting the Smith negotiations.

As quarterbacks, Dalton (No. 35 overall) and Kaepernick (No. 36) received a higher percentage of guaranteed money than some of those drafted around them. For instance, 74 percent of Kaepernick's four-year, $5.124 million contract is guaranteed, according to overthecap.com. There's no doubt that Smith (No. 39) is looking for a sweeter deal than some of those ahead of him. The 38th pick, LB Manti Te'o, received a 62 percent guarantee on his $5.172 million. You can bet Smith wants to be in the Dalton/Kaepernick neighborhood.

Idzik was described by one source as "unbendable." We'll find out more about him in the coming days.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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