August 29, 2016

ELDEN | The Joey Bosa Debacle

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For the San Diego Chargers, no offseason is too quiet. Even if they have a mundane season, the team still finds a way to stay relevant in the offseason, but usually not for the right reasons.

The Chargers finished last season with four wins, leaving them ahead of only the Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns. The team’s franchise quarterback Philip Rivers is entering into his 13th season at the age of 34 and begins the first year of a four-year extension. Age has not impacted Rivers’s play too drastically, though, as he put together a stellar season in 2015-16 by racking up the second most yards and the 12th most touchdowns of any quarterback in the league.

Despite this, the team as a whole failed to reach the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons and watched their rivals in Denver win the Superbowl. This offseason, they also lost long-time free safety Eric Weddle to free agency after a series of contract disputes with the team. The mediocrity of the Chargers was further overshadowed by the dark cloud of a potential move to Los Angeles.

Ownership has had a public battle with the local San Diego government, pressuring the city — and their taxpayers — into building a new stadium by threatening a move to Los Angeles. A 4-12 season seemed like a disappointing end to a somewhat successful yet championship-less era for the Chargers in San Diego, but they agreed to remain located in San Diego for at least the 2016 season.

The one positive thing about a poor season is the high draft pick that comes with it. The best thing that came out of the 2015 season for the Chargers was being awarded the third overall pick, where they selected all-American defensive end Joey Bosa out of Ohio State.

This was widely considered an excellent draft choice that would contribute to the team immediately and vastly improve the Chargers defense. Bosa marks the first time that the Chargers have had a pick in the top 10 since 2004 and the team’s highest pick since 1998.

With a highly-touted rookie in their grasp, the Chargers are expected to be a much better team this season. However, contract negotiations with Bosa have made this offseason, yet again, very rocky.

The Chargers ownership and front office have made many significant blunders over the years (letting go of Drew Brees, not firing Norv Turner, drafting Ryan Leaf, firing Marty Schottenheimer, etc), but after a miserable season in San Diego, and ugly battles with city government, the Chargers mishandling of Bosa comes with poor timing.

The Chargers and Bosa were in a fight almost as ugly and public as their stadium battle. Bosa’s mother publically called out Chargers management, claiming that Bosa should have “pulled an Eli Manning,” which angered San Diego fans. This, of course, references the 2004 draft, when the Chargers selected Manning even though he made it public he would not play for them if drafted. They did anyway, and he was later traded to the Giants.

Bosa was, by far, the longest contract holdout since 2011, when a new labor deal was renegotiated making holdouts less common. Bosa’s displeasure came when the Chargers wanted to defer some of his signing bonus to 2017, but Bosa wanted to receive all his money this season.

The Chargers had until the start of the regular season to sign Bosa and used nearly that full amount of time. Both sides would have lost had Bosa not signed, with the Chargers losing out on a potential franchise player, and Bosa having to wait until the next draft to play in the NFL.

Thankfully (if you are a Chargers fan), the team signed Bosa to a four-year contract today. The Chargers sent out a press release expressing that Bosa had not accepted their best offer, which featured an 85 percent payout upfront of Bosa’s signing bonus — $17 million dollars — with a 15 percent deferment to March of next year.

The Chargers and Bosa saga with a happy ending, at least compared to the nastiness of their public contract dispute. Bosa still must come into a Chargers’ training camp having missed the first half and losing an opportunity to mesh with a team that has been training for months without him. The Chargers lost even more faith from their fan base and potentially hurt their bid for a new stadium by another public skirmish over money.

The situation should have been dealt with much earlier and behind closed doors for both the sake of Bosa and the Chargers’ ownership, but at least both sides came to a consensus. This salvages a good amount of value from the situation, but both sides hurt themselves in their contract stalemate.