Holmes’ Jets deal leaves Cowboys on the runway
A SECRET $4.5 million proposed deal between Valentine Holmes and the Cowboys is in tatters after the Queensland Origin star kept his NFL dream alive by securing a practice spot with the New York Jets.
North Queensland's handshake deal with Holmes on a five-year, $900,000-a-season contract is now in limbo as the Maroons ace prepares to take up a basic $180,000 deal with the Jets.
Holmes had hatched a contingency plan to join the Cowboys until the end of 2024 if he failed in his attempt to crack the NFL following a three-month stint at the IMG Academy in Florida.
But New York confirmed Holmes had been placed in their practice squad under the NFL's International Player Program, prompting Holmes to declare: "I'm with the Jets baby".
The 23-year-old returned to Australia on Monday with his future uncertain but after receiving a phone call from the Jets 12 hours later, Holmes will fly to New York in a fortnight to ramp up his pursuit of an NFL debut.
The development drives a dagger into North Queensland's recruitment plans. The Cowboys were confident of having Holmes on their books for the 2020 season, but admit there is now a possibility his big-money move to Townsville could collapse.
Holmes will train with the Jets for the entire 2019 NFL regular season which runs from September 5 to December 29 - by which time NRL clubs have ostensibly finalised their full-time rosters under the salary cap.
"It's very disappointing for us, there's no chance at all he will be in the NRL this year," Cowboys head of football Peter Parr said.
"The question is how long are we prepared to wait?
"You would have to say if there is an alternative signing (on the NRL open market), we would have to seriously consider signing someone else because we don't want to be left with nothing either.
"By the time Valentine Holmes comes back - if he comes back - we might have spent all our money (under the NRL salary cap)."
The Cowboys have been sweating on Holmes' availability to add some attacking spark to a North Queensland side reeling from the retirement of Johnathan Thurston and the unexpected sacking of Ben Barba.
The Cowboys have been in delicate talks with Holmes' management in recent weeks while the former Test winger was learning the nuances of his new sport at the IMG Academy.
It was North Queensland's understanding Holmes was hopeful of being signed by an NFL club as a free agent and would pull the pin if he was only offered a practice spot under the IPP development system.
But after being overlooked as a free agent, Holmes decided to accept an NFL placement with the Jets on a deal worth $US130,000. It is understood the appeal of living in New York and being part of a lavish NFL set-up convinced Holmes to stay on.
The best-case scenario for the Cowboys is that Holmes fails in his NFL bid, is cut by the Jets and returns to Australia in January or February. By then, his possible return could come too late.
"The timing is problematic," Parr said.
"To be honest, I don't know what we do. I'm really not sure where we will go now.
"We were always hopeful that if it didn't work out for Val he would come to our club next year and possibly sooner.
"When Valentine's management gets back to Australia I'll have a longer conversation with them."