Sam Darnold signs rookie contract, joins practice


John Fox and Jeff Saturday react to the Jets reaching a deal in principle with QB Sam Darnold after a contract dispute.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — It took longer than expected, but the New York Jets finally have quarterback Sam Darnold under contract after he signed his rookie deal Monday.

“What’s up, Jets fans. Man, it’s a pleasure to be signed now,” Darnold said in a video tweeted by the Jets. “Very excited, very special moment.”

The Jets signed their first-round draft pick to a four-year contract for the slotted amount of $30.2 million. The deal, which includes a $20 million signing bonus, is one of the richest in Jets history. By rule, the contract is fully guaranteed and includes the standard fifth-year club option.

The newly signed Darnold joined his teammates immediately. At precisely 2 p.m., he emerged from the locker room in uniform and jogged to the practice field.

The players, spread across the field for pre-practice stretching, welcomed him with a slow clap. Darnold took his place with the quarterbacks and was greeted by incumbent starter Josh McCown, who shook the rookie’s hand and gave him a playful head slap.

Coach Todd Bowles greeted Darnold on the field with a simple message.

“I told him he was late,” Bowles deadpanned.

Video of the slow-clap reception started trending on Twitter. Bowles said the sarcastic welcome was just part of football.

“Anybody who comes in late and holds out as a draft pick and makes a bunch of money is going to catch some ribbing from the team — and this is only the start of it,” Bowles said. “Sam has a good spirit, and he’ll take it kind-heartedly and we’ll move on.”

While the overall value of the contract was predetermined, the two sides haggled over specific clauses and language.

The deal includes offset language, which the Jets wanted but that hadn’t been part of the negotiations in recent weeks. The Jets agreed to change their position on default language regarding the guaranteed money, which had been a major sticking point. Darnold forfeits his guarantee with a league suspension, but not a league fine. This marks the first time the Jets have done a voidable not tied to a player fine.

Darnold also becomes the first top-five pick to get his bonus at signing as a lump sum. The Jets also guaranteed roster bonuses in 2019, 2020 and 2021 even if he begins camp on the non-football-injury list.

“We are very pleased to have Sam join the team,” general manager Mike Maccagnan said in a statement. “This is what both sides wanted all along, and we’re eager to get Sam on the practice field while it’s still early in training camp.”

Of the 256 players drafted, Darnold was the 255th to sign his rookie deal. The only unsigned draft pick is Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith, chosen eighth overall.

Darnold, drafted third out of USC, is expected to compete for the starting quarterback job in training camp. His competition will be McCown and former Minnesota Vikings starter Teddy Bridgewater.

The quarterback rotation was the same as the spring Monday. McCown took most of the first-team reps, with Darnold receiving about 10 reps with the starters.

Bowles reiterated that McCown is the starter, adding that it could change based on the preseason.

“Josh is 1. I don’t know what else to tell you,” Bowles said. “They have to beat him out.”

Privately, the Jets hope Darnold can challenge for the starting job. He was understandably rusty in his first practice, overthrowing a couple of open receivers. But he also made a nice touchdown pass to Quincy Enunwa in a red zone period.

The Jets declined to make Darnold available to the media. He will address reporters on Wednesday, following a day off.

“You want everybody here on time, but it’s a business and you understand the ramifications of missing three practices,” Bowles said. “But he can catch up and he has time to catch up. He’s got to put his head down because everybody has a head start.”

Darnold’s $30.2 million guarantee represents the fourth-largest in team history, behind cornerback Darrelle Revis ($39 million), defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson ($37 million) and current cornerback Trumaine Johnson ($34 million). Revis and Johnson signed as free agents, while Wilkerson had the franchise tag.

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