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Leonard Fournette only rookie to avoid offsets, so far

Myles Garrett signed his rookie deal with the Cleveland Browns, but the top pick has details in his contract that highlight an NFL issue.

The numbers are trickling in regarding the contracts signed by the players selected three weeks ago in the draft. In the top 10, half have signed their deals. Only one has avoided the oft-contentious offset language.

The Jaguars gave running back Leonard Fournette, the fourth pick in round one, a fully-guaranteed contract with no offset language. At this point, it’s no longer about the selection slot; whether offset language will appear in the contract depends on the team. The Jaguars, even with new-boss-old-boss Tom Coughlin running the show, are one of the few to not worry about how the worst-case scenario of a top-10 picking being cut within the first four years will be cleaned up financially. If it all goes to hell in a handwarmer, the player gets his money from the Jaguars, along with whatever someone else will pay him.

The Browns do worry about the worst case; the deal signed by defensive end Myles Garrett, the first overall pick, includes offset language. Ditto for the other top-10 picks who have signed: Chargers receiver Mike Williams (No. 7); Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (No. 8); and Bengals receiver John Ross (No. 9).

For Williams, who is represented by the same firm (CAA) that held out Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa last year in part due to the offset issue, the compromise came from guaranteed roster bonuses due on the fifth day of training camp in 2018, 2019, and 2020. (The Texans applied the same approach to quarterback DeShaun Watson, the twelfth overall pick, paying fifth-day-of-camp roster bonuses in lieu of removing offset language.)

This approach gives the player a sliver of protection by paying out a significant chunk of cash roughly a month before final roster cuts. Offsets aren’t an issue as to money that already has been paid; by pushing compensation from base salary into an early-camp roster bonus, the player can essentially double dip.

The only risk from this technique arises from the potential voiding of the guarantee by a suspension coupled with the possible placement of the player on the Non-Football Injury/Illness list to start training camp. While in theory a rare combination of events, it happened last year to former Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan, wiping out $1.7 million.

UPDATE 12:05 p.m. ET: Per a source with knowledge of the various contracts, the Bosa and Williams deals include language guaranteeing payment of the training-camp roster bonuses even if the players are on active/NFI. Watson’s deal does not contain that same language.