Offsets re-emerge as a top-10 contract issue

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Of the 15 unsigned rookies, seven were taken in the top 10. And it’s an old top-10 contract issue that is contributing to the delay.

Per a league source, the effort to remove offset language from the fully-guaranteed contracts given to the players taken at the very top of the draft has become a factor in the lingering inability to get the deals done.

It’s a simple term. With offset language, a player who is cut before the completion of his four-year deal will have the remaining guaranteed money reduced by whatever he earns elsewhere. Without offset language, the player gets to double dip.

CAA represents five of the seven unsigned players in the top 10: Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (No. 3), Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (No. 4), Bills quarterback Josh Allen (No. 7), Bears linebacker Roquan Smith (No. 8), and 49ers tackle Mike McGlinchey (No. 9). Jack and Tom Mills represent Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall choice. Kim Miale of Roc Nation Sports has the No. 2 selection, Giants running back Saquon Barkley.

CAA also has Colts guard Quenton Nelson, the sixth overall pick who agreed to terms on May 10. His contract contains offset language. It also employs large guaranteed training-camp roster bonuses in 2019 through 2021, minimizing the amount of salary that would be subject to offset.

The waiting game often becomes as much a competition among agencies as it is a test of wills between agent/player and team. Agents want to be able to claim that they held firm and achieved certain terms — and they also want to be able to point to the fact that other agents didn’t.

Mayfield considered not using an agent at all, which makes it even more important for his representation to see whether anyone in the top 10 avoids offset language, or finagles a more favorable signing-bonus cash flow. And while Mayfield has no specific reason to be concerned that he’ll flame out in Cleveland at some point before the next four seasons concluded, none of the four first-round quarterbacks taken by the Browns since the team rejoined the league in 1999 have finished their rookie deals. The last two (Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel) lasted only two years each.

In recent years, the offset issue had seemed to subside, with willingness to remove the term becoming a team-driven factor — and with only the Rams and Jaguars routinely doing it. Last year, Jacksonville running back Leonard Fournette avoided offset language at No. 4. The only other player in the top 10 from 2017 to get anything close to that was Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who had the offset language removed from his guaranteed training-camp roster bonuses.

The NFL remains a deadline-driven league, and the only deadline relevant to rookie draft picks is the start of training camp. Still, at a time when most of these contracts are easy to resolve, the offset stare-down may be reemerging as an impediment for the players taken in the top 10.

43 responses to “Offsets re-emerge as a top-10 contract issue

  1. Any agent who pushes for completely no offset language, and causes a long holdout in the process, is doing his client a disservice. Good agents should be like Nelson’s and aim to minimize the impact of offset language on the contract, let the teams feel like they got something they really didn’t, and then get their clients to work. As for Mayfield, while the last two Browns QBs didn’t finish their rookie deals, it’s worth pointing out that neither came close to being a #1 overall pick. The Browns have a LOT more commitment to Mayfield than they did to Weeden or Manziel.

  2. What top pick thinks he’s going to need this? Talk about low self-confidence.

  3. If you are worried about being cut before your first contract as a number 1 pick then you arent as good as you think you are.

  4. If you’re selecting a player in the top 10 and have a team option for a 5th year, then the least those teams can do is fully guarantee the first 4 years with no offset language.

    If a team doesn’t want to pay that, then they should simply trade out of the top 10 and select a (potentially) lesser player.

    I don’t believe any player selected in the top 10 should sign a slotted value contract with offset language unless the NFL allows for the 5th year option to be removed. I would go so far as to give the team the option to either fully guarantee the contract with offset language ONLY if the immediately denounce their right to a 5th year option.

  5. I think it’s real;ly dumb for team with high picks to try and get the players to give up their offsets.

    1 – if you draft a player in the top 10 , how often is that player such a bust that he’s actually cut during the first 4 years? The GM will look bad if that happens so is likely to hold onto him to hope the player improves.

    2 – if a top 10 pick is cut, another team will immediately sign him, but for a low salary, say 600K for 1 year. So how much is the original team saving? 600K? And at the same time they are potentially alienating the player, like the Chargers did with Bosa. And if the player misses some training camp then it hurts the team that year because that players development is slowed.

    3 – If the team just gives the player what the CBA calls for, and doesn’t try ans stiff him his offset, they can sign him right after drafting him. They can tell him how happy they are to have him, and start the 4 year relationship off on a positive note.

  6. I will never understand this offset nonsense. Let’s say I sign on to work with a company and was given a $10,000 gauranteed sign on bonus. But the company for whatever reason decided they didn’t want to employ me anymore after a few months. Why in the world would they expect/think they could reduce the amount we agreed to based off what my future employer decides to pay me??? What business is it of theirs what me and another company do?

  7. Why would you need offset language if you are confident that you are talented enough to not get cut?
    And if you are so bad that you get cut while you are still getting guarenteed $$, you next deal won’t be all that much anyway.

  8. 6thsense10 says:
    July 5, 2018 at 9:00 am
    I will never understand this offset nonsense. Let’s say I sign on to work with a company and was given a $10,000 gauranteed sign on bonus. But the company for whatever reason decided they didn’t want to employ me anymore after a few months. Why in the world would they expect/think they could reduce the amount we agreed to based off what my future employer decides to pay me??? What business is it of theirs what me and another company do?

    ——————————

    The company would probably also have you sign a noncompete clause. To get the company to waive the noncompete before it would normally expire (let’s say 1 year from termination), the company would want compensation.

  9. Maybe I’m missing something but why aren’t players trying to get paid right off the bat and sign their deals asap. Are they getting paid in advance for their traveling expenses and all that while their agents are getting their deals done?

  10. Unions took a solid defeat at the hands of the Supreme Court just last week. I wonder if this PFT legal guru will look into the implications of the court ruling, and it’s potential effects on sport unions. We may see a future NFL without a players union. Every man for himself.


  11. 6thsense10 says:
    July 5, 2018 at 9:00 am

    I will never understand this offset nonsense. Let’s say I sign on to work with a company and was given a $10,000 gauranteed sign on bonus. But the company for whatever reason decided they didn’t want to employ me anymore after a few months. Why in the world would they expect/think they could reduce the amount we agreed to based off what my future employer decides to pay me??? What business is it of theirs what me and another company do?”

    You’re confusing a sign-on bonus with a salary. You wouldn’t expect to collect a salary from BOTH employers would you? That exactly what offset language prevents to an extent.

    Ex: You have a $5 million guaranteed contract for 2018.

    Your team cuts you – you still get that $5 million.

    WITH Offset language:
    Your team cuts you, then another team signs you for $1 million. -You still get that $5 million, but your former team is only obligated for the first $4 million.

    WITHOUT Offset language:
    Your team cuts you, then another team signs you for $1 million. -You get $6 million total, $5 million from former team and $1 million from new team.

  12. The NFL owners received a huge gift in the last CBA with the slotted salary for players, especially in the top 10 picks. Why are they insisting on offsets, in case the player they endlessly scouted & your coaches couldn’t coach-up bombs? It’s a guaranteed contract… if your scouts & coaches sucked SO BADLY that you missed on a top 10 player then cut your losses and move on. If another team’s coaches can possibly resurrect the player then the player & 2nd team deserve their success (& additional $).

  13. danbo3330 says:
    July 5, 2018 at 9:31 am

    You’re confusing a sign-on bonus with a salary. You wouldn’t expect to collect a salary from BOTH employers would you?
    —-
    I’m not confusing anything. Guaranteed money is guaranteed money wether you call it a sign on bonus or salary. The main point is whatever money I get from my future employer us none of my past employer’s business. My past employer choose to get rid of me. Part of the consequences in doing so is forfeiting my services and any guaranteed money we both agreed to. It’s none of their business what I do from that point forward. So yes I would expect to keep my full guarantees fron them. What I make going forward is none of their business.

    If I were to leave before my contract is up with my old employer I would fully expect to pay back most if not all any guaranteed we signed because I initiated the separation.

  14. I remember the Chargers did this to Joey Bosa, it got very bitter. After it was all over Bosa said he would never forget how the organization treated him. I have a feeling, when the time comes, he’s gone. What I don’t understand, if the team believes you’re a franchise type of player to draft you in the top 10. Why are they then afraid that they may cut you in less than four years?

  15. “6thsense10 says:
    July 5, 2018 at 10:04 am

    If I were to leave before my contract is up with my old employer I would fully expect to pay back most if not all any guaranteed we signed because I initiated the separation.’
    ————-

    Except that NFL players are under no such obligation….EXCEPT for the signing bonus if they quit/retire during that proration. They wouldn’t have to repay a guaranteed SALARY for that year unless already paid out.

  16. Why don’t they just call it ‘fully guaranteed’?
    Or better yet, ‘the Dallas Clause’, since they like to play people who aren’t on their roster so much.

  17. Hmmm… If you don’t want to pay a guy who doesn’t play for you after 3 years maybe you should just draft better. Teams have all these ways to mitigate damage but the players have none.

  18. Its just greed by the agents and players vs greed by the teams. Pretty disgusting on all fronts given the amounts of money involved. High draft picks are set for life from their rookie contract guarantees. Even if they’re busts if they’re smart with that money they can live a high quality of life and never have to work another day. The owners are already mega wealthy and its immaterial to their quality of life whether or not there is offset language in the contracts.

    Greed vs greed.

  19. The offset language issue intrigues me.

    From the team’s perspective they want the offset language in case the guy is a bust. I can certainly understand that. It seems ridiculous that a guy can fail in his job and still get paid while also getting paid by another employer. On top of that, the guy could decide to not exert any effort or do things to get cut by his team then sign for next-to-nothing with another team. How is that fair? There’s also the idea of competitive balance. The player could be a high draft pick who does nothing, gets cut then signs with a playoff-bound team and turn into a stellar player. What does that say about the player’s (lack of) character?

    From the player’s perspective they probably think it’s a great idea. They can take their bonus money and live it up. Then underperform for several years and get cut then get even more money from another team. What’s not to love about that. I’m sure some of you disagree but I would consider that stealing. If you had a business and an employee did that to you how would you feel.

    One way to get rid of this is just to pay a base salary and just give roster bonuses and incentives. They could even be easily attainable bonuses. That would solve the problem of these players who are only motivated by money. I get that offset is a bargaining chip now but I think it’s ridiculous that it’s even an issue. Most rookies agree to it. I’d be concerned about those who are making it an issue. I understand when Bosa did it but that was because the Chargers were putting the squeeze on him and it was ridiculous but what else would you expect from Spanos. Any other situation I think is pathetic. It makes me think they shouldn’t have even been drafted if you can’t trust them to come in and work hard.

  20. And it’s a business (that’s poorly run much of the time). So you might think as a player that you’re good enough to stay on the team for four years but … oh, let’s take Cleveland as a totally random example. Let’s say Cleveland has a regime change next year and that GM and coach don’t want Manziel … er, I mean Mayfield around anymore so they cut him loose.

    Or, even more realistically, let’s say that the coaches don’t know how to coach the player, so the player “sucks” and is cut (looking at Jared Goff and Case Keenum as examples of really crappy coaching, but have since flourished under different coaches). If Fisher had managed to keep his job with the Rams, maybe Goff never plays to his potential and they cut him this year. If Manziel had gone to a team with coaches willing to be tough on him (to protect him from himself) and who knew how to actually coach him, maybe he’s still playing in the NFL.

    If Brady is drafted by virtually ANY other team, we most likely never hear of the guy. Sorry, I wandered off-topic, but I’m really intrigued by how “busts” might have prospered under good coaching–and vice versa.

  21. harrisonhits2 says:

    High draft picks are set for life from their rookie contract guarantees.

    You’d think that wouldn’t you? The problem is many of them aren’t bright enough to think about it. I know a guy who was the financial adviser for a player just drafted. Even before he signed his contract he went out and purchased some necklace for himself for $175k. His financial adviser said he shouldn’t do it but the guy, of course, didn’t listen. He bought a Mercedes, a Lexus, and spent $40k on furniture–all before even signing his contract. He played for a total of seven years but his last two years for the team that drafted him he averaged just over 2 catches per game. In his entire career he only caught about 40 passes a year–a disappointment for a 1st round pick.

    He earned a total of $12M in his seven years. After taxes and buying everything in sight I’m sure he’s broke now with nothing to fall back on. Then you have Latrell Sprewell who earned over $100M during his career and his net worth is now $50k. If these guys had any sense they could be set for life but too often they’d rather waste it all on bling then realize when their playing days are over they are in trouble.

  22. eagleswin says:
    July 5, 2018 at 9:07 am

    The company would probably also have you sign a noncompete clause. To get the company to waive the noncompete before it would normally expire (let’s say 1 year from termination), the company would want compensation.
    —-
    Non competes are different then offsets. Non competes are intended to keep you off the market while offsets are not. And the NFL does have noncompetes in the form of the NFL contract which allows them to control a player’s rights. It’s actually stronger than a noncompetes in that it keeps the player off the market if they decide they don’t want to work for your company anymore PLUS when there is no period a player can stay off the market and then come back and sign with any team they want. If the player wants back in they either come back and fulfill the rest of their contract or figure out a way to negotiate their freedom most likely through a trade.

  23. I’m not confusing anything.
    —————–
    I think you’re confused, the fact is the Teams can use offset language (and I don’t blame them)…bet you would use if you were a “good” businessman. This big business not a mom and pop store…

  24. So a team drafts a player – let’s say a QB – in the top 10, but a year or two later decide to change their coach and/or general manager. They decide they want to change the system they play and go in a different direction at the QB position. They can’t trade the player and so release him.

    How is it fair that that player should have to take into consideration his old employer’s guaranteed financial commitment to him before he signs a new team?

    Sometimes things don’t work out and the player thrives at his new team and becomes the player he was projected to be when selected in the top 10 of the draft. At what point do you soley blame the player rather than the talent around him, the system he’s playing in, or the coaching staff?

    Why should a player bet on himself being successful playing for the team with a terrible losing record the year before, when had he been selected later in the round he could be playing for a team with a better supporting cast or one that plays with a system his skillset better fits?

    I still maintain that getting drafted in the top 10 should mean that the full 4 years of the contract is fully guaranteed with no offset language, or the team can add offset language but lose the right for the 5th year option.

    As for those who can’t understand why a player selected so high should be concerned with getting released within the first 4 years, I counter with the argument that shouldn’t teams drafting these players be willing to put their money where their mouth is and admit that they made a mistake in drafting a player they release so highly and accept the financial implications of that mistake.

  25. The offset language issue intrigues me.

    From the team’s perspective they want the offset language in case the guy is a bust. I can certainly understand that. It seems ridiculous that a guy can fail in his job and still get paid while also getting paid by another employer. On top of that, the guy could decide to not exert any effort or do things to get cut by his team then sign for next-to-nothing with another team. How is that fair?

    _______________________________________

    How is it fair that a player has no right initially to decide which team he plays for if drafted?
    How is it right that a player can play to a very high standard, and at the completion of his 4th year, be kept on a one year deal under the 5th year option?
    How is it fair that that same player can then be kept on further one year deals under the franchise or transition tag rules?
    Yes there are financial rewards for the player; but imagine being stuck on the same unsuccessful team for upward to seven years of your career when despite how well you play, the team doesn’t fully support you when they draft players who don’t play on your side of the ball and the team doesn’t succeed?
    Playing in the NFL isn’t like a “normal” everyday job, and teams enjoying such options as I stated at the beginning of this post should pay the full guarantees of any such high draft pick contract with no offset language.

  26. If you hired someone to paint your house then found out they couldn’t … would you think it’s fair to pay them anyway?

  27. Ones odds of becoming a bust seem to increase exponentially with these holdouts, yet here we are again.

  28. “Same crap every year. This will be a big arguing point in the next CBA.”

    Typically unions don’t care about future employees. They focus on the ones already there. So this may not be a bargaining point.

  29. “Roc Nation Sports has the No. 2 selection, Giants running back Saquon Barkley”

    bwhahahhahhahahhaahhaha, dummy has jay z as his “agent”!??! good luck with that!

  30. If you hired someone to paint your house then found out they couldn’t … would you think it’s fair to pay them anyway?

    __________________________________

    If by choosing that decorator you gave him/her no other choice of employer and restricted his/her employment options within the house painting field should he/she decide he/she doesn’t want to paint your house, then probably yes.

    Obviously, if we’re using your example then one would have to assume that you did your due diligence on his/her previous work, or at least verified his/her qualifications or competence to carry out the required work.

  31. “If these guys had any sense they could be set for life but too often they’d rather waste it all on bling then realize when their playing days are over they are in trouble.”

    You’re entirely correct. Many of these young men refuse to listen to advice and blow their money. For those guys I have zero sympathy that they then have to work for a living for the rest of their lives.

    Unfortunately most of them are enabled all their lives up to this point just to get to the NFL and have very little in the way of self discipline built up when it comes to money or how to save for the future. To be fair when I was in my early 20s I had no idea or discipline in that respect either. But then I never had the kind of money these guys do at their age.

    The league and teams all have advice available on how to manage their money. Few of them take advantage of that from what I can tell. Their choice and right to be foolish, but they don’t have the right to complain later that they’re broke if that’s the road they take.

  32. NFL players, especially rookies got hosed on the last CBA. It could be 7 years before an RB like Barkley gets a second contract (4 years+Option+2 franchise tags). Thats most of a running backs career.

    MLB and NBA stars/mid level players make so much more.

  33. allsyntax says:

    July 5, 2018 at 9:30 am

    Unions took a solid defeat at the hands of the Supreme Court just last week. I wonder if this PFT legal guru will look into the implications of the court ruling, and it’s potential effects on sport unions. We may see a future NFL without a players union. Every man for himself.

    ———————-

    The SCOTUS case had to do with a union being able to collect dues from people who weren’t in that union. It was a major blow to THAT union, but not to unions generally.

    Without the NFLPA, there can be no CBA. Without the CBA, there can be no draft, no franchise or transition tag, or anything else that would, on the face of it, be an anti-trust violation.

  34. If NFL teams believe in their first round pick, why are they worried about 3rd/4th year offsets?

  35. For some reason it’s better to be good and get drafted after the 1st round than be good and get drafted in the 1st round. Sure they get a larger contract at first, but with the use of 5th year options and franchise tags, players drafted after the first round see their 2nd contract quicker and have a better shot at a 3rd contract…so in the long run, good players drafted after the 1st round have more earning potential!!!

    Case in point: Odell Beckham Jr is more than likely still 2 years away from getting his 2nd deal…meanwhile several wide receivers drafted after the 1st round in that same year have already received their 2nd contract and by the time those contracts end, they’ll still be young enough to get a decent 3rd contract. Devonte Adams, Paul Richardson, Jarvis Landry…

  36. Without the NFLPA, there can be no CBA. Without the CBA, there can be no draft, no franchise or transition tag, or anything else that would, on the face of it, be an anti-trust violation.
    ——————-
    Not sure you’re technically correct; theres a union because the Players decided to have a Union; no law mandates a Union

  37. “It could be 7 years before an RB like Barkley gets a second contract (4 years+Option+2 franchise tags). Thats most of a running backs career.”

    Right and for that time he’s getting paid many millions, especially for the tag years. Anybody with half a brain and sense of restraint with their money can live their entire lives, a high quality of life, with what these guys get paid for a single year under the tag.

  38. @harrisonhits2

    You are absolutely right. Barkley has stated that he intends to do exactly what you have said. Be sensible with the money and investments.

  39. How petty on the owners side. These rookie contracts have become completely manageable, so who cares if a guy is able to make 2 salaries in a season. They should have to count that contract as as a hard cap cost, end of story. If a player isn’t worth their time/cost to be on the roster and another team wants him….good for him. Anyone in life who has guaranteed money coming to them post firing for sitting on their butt at home, shouldnt be penalized more salary for taking a new job.

  40. eagleswin says:
    July 5, 2018 at 9:07 am
    6thsense10 says:
    July 5, 2018 at 9:00 am
    I will never understand this offset nonsense. Let’s say I sign on to work with a company and was given a $10,000 gauranteed sign on bonus. But the company for whatever reason decided they didn’t want to employ me anymore after a few months. Why in the world would they expect/think they could reduce the amount we agreed to based off what my future employer decides to pay me??? What business is it of theirs what me and another company do?

    ——————————

    The company would probably also have you sign a noncompete clause. To get the company to waive the noncompete before it would normally expire (let’s say 1 year from termination), the company would want compensation.
    ____________________________________________

    Nope, that’s not always true. I signed with a major tech company and got a fat signing bonus. Execs had an overhaul 6 months later and I got packaged out by the new Management team (they wanted their own people). I left with a golden handshake and signing bonus and contracted with a competitor after taking a couple weeks break.

    So, if me (just a dude) can get away with my full signing bonus and immediately move to a competitor, these guys (unique, rare global talent) should expect no less.

  41. Offsets are just another way to shift the burden of a team’s mistakes to the player. Sign the guy to a contract and you pay him. You dump him? Fulfill the terms and shut up. It was your mistake. Why should the player or the next team subsidize team management’s mistake?

    I don’t get people blaming the players or their agents. This is a business and the owners would dump, fire, destroy players and their careers over business without a second thought. They don’t give a you know what.

    The problem is the players can never stick together to change their labor situation and the owners know that so they get away with anything they want.

    To some extent the players deserve this and non guaranteed contracts because they let it happen and none of them are a team except for 60 minutes sixteen times a year.

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