An agent for multiple first- and third-round picks, however, allowed this week that discussions are "slow going" with "little movement" from the franchises involved. There were, last Friday morning, just 32 of 253 picks who were still unsigned: 14 in the first round, three in the second, 13 in the third and one each in the fourth and fifth rounds. The rookie wage scale certainly has accomplished part of its intent, in getting deals done on time, but there could still be a straggler or two, given the slow pace in the first and third rounds.
Test in Tampa
The non-nonsense approach of Tampa Bay rookie coach Greg Schiano could be tested a bit, even before training camp begins, with the recent felony DUI arrest of corner Eric Wright. But some Bucs officials insist that Schiano won't waver in his emphasis on character, and running a much tighter ship, and on expecting plenty of personal accountability from his players.
"The (Wright) deal could be a tough one, but (Schiano) is serious about cleaning some stuff up," one team official told The Sports Xchange last week.
The Bucs invested a five-year, $38 million contract in Wright, so that might complicate matters a bit. And the team may still have to deal with league discipline for fellow cornerback Aqib Talib, even though authorities have dismissed an aggravated assault charge against him.
"It's something Greg is going to have to work through, but his message won't change," the official said.
Apparently, the debate over whether a kicker handles kickoff duties was not a factor in the four-year, $13 million contract that Denver's Matt Prater signed last week.
The Tip Sheet recently suggested that the four-year, $13.2 million contract to which Tampa Bay recently signed Connor Barth might be a negotiating point in some of the other kicker-related negotiations, because the Bucs' standout landed the deal even though punter Michael Koenen kicks off.
But Prater, who does kick off, and had 47 touchbacks in 2011, took a deal worth $200,000 less in total compensation than the one Barth got. Over the past 41 games, which corresponded to the same period in which Barth played for Tampa Bay, Prater connected on 81.0 percent of his field-goal attempts. Barth was slightly better, at 84.0 percent.
It will be interesting to see how much the kickoff factor impacts Josh Scobee's contract negotiations with Jacksonville, which have resumed after a long hiatus. Scobee has privately noted the kickoff role and its importance in discussions with Jaguars officials.
The other two "franchised" kickers, we're told, Phil Dawson of Cleveland and Cincinnati's Mike Nugent, probably aren't as affected. It's doubtful the Bengals will have any kind of long-term discussions with Nugent before the start of the season. Cleveland and Dawson appear content to work off the one-year franchise tender, as they did last season.
Of course, the caveat is that the Browns, because of the recent ruling in favor of Drew Brees, would have to pay Dawson 144 percent of his $3.81 million salary if he was designated a franchise player for a third time. That would be $5.49 million. So for Dawson, who will be 38 before next year's franchise deadline, there probably won't be a third franchise marker, or maybe a long-term deal, either.
In the past few weeks, Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson — his height (or lack thereof), initial contract (still the best in the third round), and potential as a starter in his NFL maiden voyage — has been a popular Tip Sheet subject.
There's no direct allusion to the former Wisconsin/North Carolina State star this time, but it might be worth noting how difficult it is for a player chosen after the second round to start on Opening Day in his rookie season. The last time a rookie selected after the second round started a season opener at quarterback was way back in 2005, when Kyle Orton, a fourth-rounder with the Bears and the 106th prospect off the board that year, opened the campaign.
"Believe me, it's really on-the-job training," Orton, now the backup to Tony Romo in Dallas, told The Sports Xchange.
The former Purdue quarterback was 10-5 as a starter his rookie season, including an eight-game winning streak.
There were 46 quarterbacks picked after the first two rounds in the six-year stretch 2006-11, and none started the season opener as a rookie for his respective team.
The undersized Wilson, plucked by the Seahawks in the third round, with the No. 75 overall choice, has overcome long odds most of his career. And the past isn't necessarily a prelude to the future or a predictor of how he'll eventually fare in the league. But the strong endorsement of coach Pete Carroll aside, Wilson will have a rough time overcoming the recent history of passers taken in the third round or later.
So it's no surprise that Carroll has tabbed six-year pro Tarvaris Jackson to take the first-team snaps at the outset of camp. A much bigger surprise will be if it's Wilson at the top of the depth chart for the Seahawks' opener at Arizona on Sept. 9.