After three laborious years, a few different playbooks and 103 sacks, Christian Hackenberg is getting paid.
The former Penn State quarterback officially signed his rookie contract with the New York Jets on Thursday, the NFL team announced.
Hackenberg signed the standard four-year deal for incoming players, and it’s worth a reported $4.7 million over those years. The Jets’ 2016 salary cap is $847,000.
The quarterback, who announced after Penn State’s TaxSlayer Bowl loss to Georgia in January that he had decided to forgo his senior season and enter the draft, was selected by the Jets in the second round, 51st overall.
According to an insider report by The Monday Morning Quarterback, the Jets scheduled a top-secret workout with Hackenberg after the 21-year-old impressed head coach Todd Bowles and his staff at Penn State’s Pro Day.
The team worked Hackenberg out for an hour, according to the report, and decided he was their guy despite being tangled in contract negotiations with starter Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan told Jets reporters during rookie minicamp earlier this month that they’d like to get a deal done with Fitzpatrick, and that they currently see former draft pick Geno Smith backing up Fitzpatrick. Hackenberg and last year’s pickup, Bryce Petty, need time to develop, they agreed.
“And then we’ll see how the young guys are,” Maccagnan said, according to NJ.com. “It’s a good group of guys to work with, in terms of being a competitive room. And we’ll let it work itself out. It just increases competition.”
Hackenberg, a 6-foot-4, 223-pound Virginia native arrived at a Penn State football program led by now-Texans head coach Bill O’Brien in 2013; one that was reeling from the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal and the ensuing NCAA sanctions levied against the program.
O’Brien and his pro-style system left for the NFL after Hackenberg’s freshman season, and the university hired James Franklin to fill the vacancy. The quarterback had well-documented transfer options, but stayed put at Penn State.
Three years later, Hackenberg became the school’s all-time leading passer with 8,547 yards, the touchdown leader with 48, both the attempts and completions leader with 1,235 and 693, respectively, and is the all-time leader in total offense with 8,215 yards.
However, the captain saw his stats dip heavily in his second and third seasons within a spread variation preferred by Franklin and his staff, and completed just 53 percent of his passes his final year while taking 38 sacks (he took 44 the year prior) while struggling often with simple footwork and short game concepts.
Hackenberg was under intense scrupulation by NFL scouts all throughout because of that dip, pressure that only increased once he declared for the draft. He trained with quarterback coach Jordan Palmer for both the NFL Combine and Penn State’s Pro Day, and while he failed to impress at the former he shone at the latter.
“There’s a reason I train just one quarterback,” said Palmer at the time. “I just had my first child. He’s 3 months old. And I could tell that (Christian) is just going to be a good dad, in like 10 years. But that kind of solidified that ... That’s really important. Because if I’m a general manager and I’m trusting you with my franchise, that’s a big, big task.”
Penn State safety Jordan Lucas also inked his rookie deal with the Miami Dolphins earlier this week, as did Austin Johnson with the Tennessee Titans and Carl Nassib with the Cleveland Browns.