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Battle over offset language still lingers in top-10 contracts

Los Angeles Rams Rookie Camp

OXNARD, CA - MAY 06: Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams rests during a Los Angeles Rams rookie camp on May 06, 2016 in Oxnard, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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With not much left to negotiate in rookie deals, rookies taken at the top of the draft in recent years have pushed for a term that allows them to keep the full amount of their guaranteed four-year contracts plus whatever they receive elsewhere, if they stink enough to get cut by the team that drafted them. Many teams hope to avoid double-dipping, a minor consolation to the fact that a top-10 pick was so bad in his first four years that the team had to cut him.

Fewer teams omit offset language, but some still do. The Rams, per a source with knowledge of the deal, removed offset language from the contract given to Jared Goff (pictured) at No. 1. Then again, the Rams annually have removed offset language for guaranteed money in rookie contracts, regardless of the spot in round one where the player was taken.

At No. 5, the Jaguars also removed offset language for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, consistent with the team’s habit when consistently picking in the top five (but not for much longer).

The only unsigned top-10 pick, Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, is believed to be seeking no offset language as part of a standoff that caused him to skip mandatory minicamp. But while the fact that the No. 1 and No. 5 picks avoided it, the guys taken at No. 2 and No. 4 have it.

For several top-10 draft picks, the fallback to removing offset language arises from a cash-flow structure that forces the team to make a decision early in the later years of the deal, if the wind is blowing in the direction of blasting the guy off the roster. This year, four of the players taken in the first 10 picks have a structure that will bring the issue to a head earlier than the start of the regular season.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, the second overall pick, has guaranteed roster bonuses payable early in training camp for 2017, 2018, and 2019. So if the Eagles are going to cut him and avoid a Wentz double dip, they need to do so before camp -- which in turn would give him a better chance to land elsewhere than if he’s dumped unceremoniously after the preseason ends.

Players with similar structures include 49ers defensive end DeForest Buckner (pick No. 7), Titans tackle Jack Conklin (pick No. 8), and Bears linebacker Leonard Floyd (pick No. 9). For the other players taken in the top 10, their teams have both offset language and the ability to make a decision about whether to keep the player after fully assessing his performance in training camp and the preseason, for each and every year of his contract.

Again, teams that ultimately are required to cut the cord on a top-10 pick in less than four years have far bigger issues than whether they’ll have to pay the full amount of a failed player’s contract. But with little about which to squabble, draft picks and teams are still squabbling about, essentially, the procedures for cleaning up the aftermath of a worst-case scenario.