Rookie Contracts The Latest Hot Topic

With the owners voting to end the current collective bargaining agreement after the 2010 season, there was an immediate rash of long-term contracts signed to pre-empt the new uncertainty surrounding the salary cap.

Owners and agents admittedly aren't sure how difficult it will be to negotiate multi-year deals. That led to Dallas giving running back Marion Barber and cornerback Terence Newman a combined $95.2 million, while the Falcons stirred a hot debate by bestowing $34.5 million in guaranteed money upon rookie quarterback Matt Ryan.

But several big-name players remain in contract limbo with training camps two months away. Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher, Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby and defensive lineman Darnell Dockett are among those skipping their team's offseason programs in contract disputes.

How hard it will be for agents and teams to agree on the parameters of long-terms deals remains to be seen. If a new labor deal isn't reached, 2010 will be an un-capped year, but it will take players longer to earn free agency and it is doubtful many teams will use the situation to break the bank to sign players.

WR Lee Evans
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

So Buffalo wide receiver Lee Evans is among the group of players entering the final year of their current deals who could find it difficult to cash in on a new multi-year contract this offseason.

"I don't really want to speak on it now," Evans said. "There was an offer put out there but that's as much as I'll speak on it now."

Ryan's contract highlighted another sticking point in the labor situation. As the No. 3 overall pick who has yet to play a down in the NFL, he is already among the highest paid players at the position.

"As a guy who has been in the league for 14 now going on 15 years and being around other veteran guys, for a young guy to get paid that kind of money and never steps foot on an NFL football field, it's a little disheartening to think of," said Titans center and NFLPA president Kevin Mawae,. "It makes it tough for a guy who's proven himself to say 'I want that kind of money' when the owners, all they're going to say is, 'well, you weren't a first-round pick.

"I know there is sentiment around the league amongst the players like, 'Let's do something to control these salaries and control these signing bonuses' and things like that.'"

At least there's one topic the players and owners should be able to agree on.

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