Draft picks signing at historic pace thanks to slotting
By Len Pasquarelli, The Sports Xchange
The late general manager George Young, a teacher in a former life and
longtime student of history, used to suggest that signing draft choices
could generally wait until Bastille Day, the French celebration of
independence, on July 14.
But with the collective bargaining agreement negotiated last summer, a
10-year deal that includes a rookie wage scale, most of the 32 teams
could have their draft picks signed sealed and delivered by a much
earlier and more relevant holiday.
The Fourth of July.
That used to be the unofficial start of the rookie signing period. Team
executives would return tanned and refreshed and golfed-out from their
vacations, and with training camp looming, would finally get to the
negotiating table. Now, because of the rookie wage scale, most deals
might get done before team officials pack up the golf clubs for a week
or two on the links.
Less than two weeks since the three-day draft concluded, dozens of the
253 players selected in the 2012 draft, including a pair of
first-rounders have signed their initial NFL contracts. There figure to
be a lot more to come in the next week.
It wasn't a surprise when the Chicago broke first from the chute with
an agreement for second-round wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, because
Bears' contract negotiator Cliff Stein, a former player agent, often
leads the league in finishing off his draft class first, and he has
unofficially set a goal of May 14 for completing all his deals. But in
the days since Jeffery agreed to terms, there has been a spate of
signings, and first-round picks Bruce Irvin of Seattle and San Diego
Melvin Ingram agreed to deals.
There are a lot of things for team and league executives to like about
the CBA -- the retention by commissioner Roger Goodell of his
far-reaching power in deciding on some categories of sanctions, which
might be unwisely tested in court, one of the foremost tenets of the
new deal -- but the rookie wage scale has to be foremost among the
NFL's victories at the bargaining table.
The CBA essentially slots contracts -- formally, not the way they used
to be -- assigning a salary cap value to each of the 253 draft spots.
The system, a copy of which was obtained by The Sports Xchange, and
which details that virtually all the choices will receive four-year
contracts very similar to those of the corresponding spots in the 2011
draft, leaves little or no wiggle room for negotiation.
Contract values are generally less than 1 percent of the deals
completed in the same slots a year ago. The result: Quicker deals,
since there is no real haggling, and likely no holdouts.
"The numbers are what they are," acknowledged Irvin, the initial
first-round choice to sign, "and there's not much you can do with them.
So why not just sign the thing and (officially) start your career? You
might as well get started."
A year ago, when the lockout mandated that everything happen in a
blink, the draft choices were expeditiously signed. This year, things
are happening at warp-speed. No one is happier with the system than
coaches, who don't have to fret about having a player miss training
camp. Many of the signings, in fact, may be completed by the time some
franchises commence their OTA programs.
"It's a boon," allowed one NFC coach whose team hasn't yet signed its
top pick, but expects to in the coming week. "No more waiting for guys.
You can immediately get them into the flow with everybody else."
Because of their cap crunch (an unusual situation around the league),
and the need to wait until June 1, when their spending ceiling is
credited with the rebate for releasing veteran cornerback Terence Newman, the Dallas Cowboys will have to wait to sign first-round choice
Morris Claiborne. The former LSU cornerback has been assigned a 2012
cap number of $2.957 million. But the Cowboys, traditionally one of the
last teams in the league to begin agreeing to contracts with their
draft choices, usually well after July 1, can get their other six picks
The wage scale has essentially erased the fireworks from negotiations.
Yet for coaches and team negotiators, it's arguably made the Fourth of
July a much more enjoyable holiday
More NFL News
DRAFT: Picks Signing At Record Pace
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