Joey Bosa and the Longest NFL Rookie Holdouts Ever

by Kevin Roberts
on August 30, 2016

The San Diego Chargers and rookie defensive end Joey Bosa that almost reached the first week of the 2016 NFL regular season. At times the two sides seemed so far apart that San Diego might entertain the thought of trading their star rookie, or that Bosa himself would step away and sit out his entire rookie campaign.

Thankfully neither of things happened and despite a worn relationship to this point, there still remains hope that the two sides can come together and enjoy a fruitful partnership moving forward.

The Bolts will certainly hope so, as they badly need Bosa to be the stud presence on their defensive line they drafted him to be. After all, San Diego gave up the 21st most points in the NFL a year ago, and specifically struggled on the line in terms of getting after the passer (24th with just 32 quarterback sacks) and stopping the run (27th with over 127 rushing yards allowed per game).

Initially many draft experts expressed concern with the drafting of the Ohio State product at the #3 overall spot, as many felt the Bolts would try to force Bosa into a 3-4 rush linebacker role. Fortunately, the team is sliding him in at defensive end, where Bosa merely needs to get a little bigger and can continue to play with his hand in the dirt.

Provided Bosa is in shape (he says he’s been working out like crazy) and effective, his 21 sacks and 148 tackles in college could do a lot of good in his first season in the pros.

It remains to be seen if the time away from the team will negatively impact the rookie, of course, but one thing is beyond clear: this holdout lasted quite some time; 31 days, to be exact. Where does Joey Bosa’s holdout rank among the longest NFL rookie holdouts ever? Let’s find out:

JaMarcus Russell, QB, Oakland Raiders (47 days)

This may be the most infamous NFL rookie holdout, seeing as Russell’s holdout nearly bled into the 2007 regular season after the Oakland Raiders made him the #1 overall pick of that year’s draft.

Russell was seen as a physically dominant specimen that would surely turn the tide in Oakland, but instead he was a lazy, unproductive bust. The Raiders continued their losing ways with Russell at the helm, and he was out of the league by 2010.

It’s difficult to put all of the blame on Russell, but he came into the league as a raw product that clearly didn’t put the time and effort into becoming a better quarterback. Not getting his deal done in a timely manner didn’t help matters.

Emmitt Smith, RB, Dallas Cowboys (48 days)

Smith was probably the only rookie NFL holdout on this list that was 100% without a doubt worth the wait. The main leader in every major career rushing category, Smith ultimately carved a legendary career out with the Dallas Cowboys – a team he won three Super Bowl titles with.

It wasn’t always roses, of course, as Smith’s time in Dallas got off to a ridiculously rocky start back in 1990. Smith ended up holding out for almost 50 days, as he didn’t officially sign on with Dallas until just five days ahead of his rookie season.

Despite the long holdout, Smith topped expectations, including many critics who pegged him as “too small” and “too slow” to excel at the highest level. Smith went on to rush for nearly 1,000 yards in just 15 games in his rookie campaign and wound up winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, as well as a trip to the Pro Bowl.

Smith might be the biggest name on our NFL rookie holdout list, but he’s one of the few to actually pan out after getting his career off to a slow start.

Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers (67 days)

Looking back, it’s hard to remember Michael Crabtree holding out, but he refused to agree to terms with the Niners after becoming the highest drafted Texas Tech player since 1965.

Crabtree was a massive name coming out of college in 2009, as he exited college as one of the most prolific wide receivers in college football history. As amazing as his production was, however, many experts didn’t think he had the long speed or physicality to make it as a star in the NFL.

It’s arguable that Crabtree was a bust of sorts when you look at his holdout, as he threatened to sit out the entire 2009 season and even re-enter the draft the following year. He ultimately signed on the dotted line after becoming the longest 49ers rookie holdout in franchise history.

This holdout was so long that it bled into Crabtree’s rookie season, where he wouldn’t debut until late October. Crabtree did make an impact once he got on the field, though, as he racked up 48 catches in the 11 games he suited up for. Crabtree would go on to be a quality #1 receiver for the Niners over the next five seasons, and even looked like a budding star in 2012. However, when looking at his insane rookie holdout, it’s arguable Crabtree never ended up being worth the trouble.

Cornelius Bennett, LB, Indianapolis Colts (102 days)

Bennett’s NFL rookie holdout is a specific situation – one that was also somewhat impacted by an NFL player strike during the 1987 season. He was still holding out on his own, of course, as his holdout from the Colts lasted an insane 102 days. Indy decided Bennett wasn’t worth all of the fuss, as they included the former #2 overall pick in a huge three-team trade involving the Buffalo Bills and star running back, Eric Dickerson. It all worked out for all sides involved, as Bennett wound up being a key defensive star for four Buffalo Super Bowl teams.

Kelly Stouffer, QB, St. Louis Cardinals (Entire Season)

I know what you’re thinking; what is a Kelly Stouffer? Stouffer was the 6th overall pick by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1987 NFL Draft after a productive career at Colorado State. Unable to agree to terms with a deal in his rookie season, Stouffer is notoriously known for sitting out his entire first year. St. Louis didn’t budge on their side, ultimately trading him to the Seattle Seahawks the following season.

In retrospect, this was probably a poor decision by Stouffer, as St. Louis at least initially probably thought he was their guy under center. He started out as a backup in Seattle, and while he flashed solid play in spurts, he only lasted four seasons in the league.

Bo Jackson, RB, Oakland Raiders (Entire season)

There probably isn’t a more high profile NFL rookie holdout than Bo Jackson, as the two-sport star was widely known as a bruising, explosive back in college and many felt he could be a superstar in the NFL.

Fans and experts alike would have to wait in 1986, as Jackson spurned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to play professional baseball for the Kansas City Royals. That ended up being a pretty good call, as Bo smacked 22 homers in his first year with the Royals and he avoided playing for a bad Tampa Bay team.

Everything worked out in the end, as Jackson was picked up in the seventh round of the 1987 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. Jackson would go on to offer numerous highlight reel runs in four injury-plagued seasons with the Raiders.

Bad Company

Where Bosa ranks among the longest NFL rookie holdouts ever is one thing, but Chargers fans may also be concerned with his placement on this list of top-3 picks who signed late in their rookie year:

That Tweet arguably short-hands Braylon Edwards and Ronnie Brown a bit, as they did both have some big seasons in the NFL. However, anytime you’re at all associated with a mega bust like JaMarcus Russell, you know you’re in bad company.

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