Joey Bosa doesn’t hate the San Diego Chargers anymore, and the San Diego Chargers don’t hate Joey Bosa anymore.
The longest NFL rookie holdout in seven years ended Monday when the Chargers and the No. 3 overall pick ended an acrimonious negotiation by agreeing to a four-year deal. Bosa, a dynamic pass-rushing defensive end from Ohio State, stayed away for 31 days of training camp. While he is now signed, don’t expect Bosa to play in the preseason finale Thursday.
The goal now is to get Bosa ready to play the season opener Sept. 11 at Kansas City. It’s realistic Bosa, who told reporters that all he did during his holdout was work out and prepare for the season, can play some against the Chiefs and then be ready to contribute more in the ensuing weeks.
Even though his holdout has ended, Bosa will always be remembered as a former holdout. There are several memorable NFL rookie holdouts. Some worked out fine, others didn’t.
Bosa, who San Diego coach Mike McCoy lauded for coming to San Diego in great shape Monday, has to hope he has better post-rookie holdout success than JaMarcus Russell.
In 2007, Russell held out until Sept. 12., the second week of the regular season, after being the No. 1 overall pick. Russell played in just four games as a rookie as a result of falling behind. Russell ended up playing just two more seasons before the Raiders cut him in the spring of 2010. He never signed elsewhere and is considered perhaps the greatest draft bust in NFL history.
Was it all because of his holdout? No, Russell had many issues that caused him to be an NFL failure. But the holdout certainly is a part of his negative legacy in the NFL.
Of course, a rookie holdout doesn’t necessarily mean a player’s career is doomed. The great Bo Jackson didn’t sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1986 after being the No. 1 overall pick. Jackson opted to play baseball with the Kansas City Royals. He later resurfaced in the NFL with the Los Angeles Raiders and was a dominant running back before a hip injury ended his astounding athletic career.
A year later, linebacker Cornelius Bennett, the No. 2 overall draft pick by the Indianapolis Colts, held out for more than three months, including a three-week players strike. His holdout ended on Halloween when he was traded to Buffalo in a three-team deal that sent Eric Dickerson to the Colts. Bennett became a centerpiece of the Bills defense that went to four Super Bowls. The trade was a creative way to get things figured out.
A similar road didn’t work for quarterback Kelly Stouffer, who was taken four picks later than Bennett. Stouffer was the last rookie to sit out an entire season after not being able to come to terms with the St. Louis Cardinals. A year later, Stouffer was dealt to Seattle. He played just four years in the NFL once his contract dispute was finally settled.
In 1990, Emmitt Smith held out for seven weeks. He reported to the Cowboys just before the start of the regular season. The missed training camp and preseason had zero effect on the running back. Smith went on to be become the offensive rookie of the year and the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. So, Bosa is probably looking to channel Smith’s success more than any other player who is famous for a rookie holdout.
The Chargers have had several former first-round picks who held out before Bosa. One of them was running back LaDainian Tomlinson. He missed most of the summer in 2001. He is now considered as one of the greatest Chargers players of all-time.
In 2002, three top-12 picks – defensive tackle Ryan Sims (Kansas City), left tackle Bryant McKinnie (Minnesota and Wendell Bryant (Arizona) had long hold outs. Sims held out until late August, while Bryant held out early into the regular season. McKinnie’s holdout lasted for the first half of the regular season.
As it turned out, McKinnie, by far, had the best NFL career than Sims and Bryant, who were fast flame outs.
Part of the surprise of Bosa’s holdout is, by in large, rookie holdouts are a thing of the past in the NFL because of a rookie pay scale that was part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011. The last long holdout prior to that was held by Michael Crabtree in 2009. The No. 10 pick by San Francisco held out into October. While his rookie season was adversely affected, Crabtree has gone on to have a productive NFL career.
Thus, it is clear that players who hold out are like any draft pick. Some become stars, others become busts. But whether Bosa likes it or not, he will be watched more closely than every other rookie this year. Bosa will always be remembered as a rookie holdout. Now, it’s up to him to see if it defines his career or not.