It has been long assumed that rookie No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson will be the Week 1 starter under center for the New York Jets, who are the first team in eight years to have zero quarterbacks on the entire roster without having taken a snap in an NFL regular-season game. Wilson, however, is not present at Jets training camp – the only player absent – with the team set to have its first practice today. Falling behind won't help Wilson's chances of winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, of which he is a +750 fourth-favorite at William Hill Sportsbook.
As of this writing, Wilson and the No. 3 overall pick, quarterback Trey Lance of the 49ers, are the only first-round rookies not to have signed their contracts across the entire league. San Francisco, though, has its veteran starter in place, at least initially, in Jimmy Garoppolo. Update: Lance has signed.
Behind Wilson on the Jets' QB depth chart is second-year James Morgan, a 2020 fourth-round pick, and Mike White, a 2018 fifth-round pick. Most still expect New York to acquire a veteran backup at some point – Chicago's Nick Foles also has been mentioned in trade. Blake Bortles is available on the free-agent market after being released by Green Bay on Tuesday.
"From a rookie standpoint you need as many reps as you can," coach Robert Saleh said of Wilson's absence. "For the individual, that's where the challenge becomes in terms of making up those reps. Everybody knows how important it is to me and our team with regards to reps and practice and process, and every moment you miss from that process, it becomes a challenge from an individual standpoint."
All rookie first-round picks are slotted, meaning Wilson's four-year deal will be worth about $35.1 million with a $22.9 million signing bonus once he signs it. A fifth-year option also is standard for first-rounder. The holdup is thought to be over offset language, which allows teams to recoup money if a player is cut before his contract is over and signs with another team.
Another potential issue is that the Jets want defer millions in signing bonus money earned by Wilson when he executes the contract to 2022. According to Pro Football Talk, the recent precedent for players taken in the top two include all signing bonus money paid promptly. The last two No. 2 overall picks, Chase Young and Nick Bosa, were paid within 30 days of executing their rookie deals.
New York also went through this in 2018 with No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold, and he missed the first three practices of that camp. Darnold was pretty terrible as a rookie – incidentally, the Jets open the season Sept. 12 at Carolina, which of course now has Darnold as its starting QB. Back when Darnold missed time, the Jets had veteran quarterbacks Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater on the roster. Obviously, the 2021 team doesn't have that.
All practices are important for rookie QBs who are slated to start, but especially with the Jets as they have an entirely new coaching staff, including a first-time play-caller in offensive coordinator in Mike LaFleur. In addition, the Jets are still reeling from the recent death of quarterbacks coach/passing-game coordinator Greg Knapp.
The Jets have never had an NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, and the longer this stalemate drags on the less likely they will in 2021. Running back Michael Carter is +5000 on this prop.
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