Paying the Rookies, Part III

With the Seahawks signing third-round wide receiver Deon Butler, NorthwestFootball.net's Brian McIntyre takes an updated look at the contracts the top two picks can expect to receive.

Earlier this month, I wrote the following about what Seahawks third-round wide receiver Deon Butler's contract might look like:

"Based on [Atlanta Falcons cornerback Christopher] Owens' contract, Butler will probably receive a four-year deal with minimal base salaries and a signing bonus of around $680,000. Through easily attainable playing time incentives and team qualifier in any of the first three years of the contract, his 2012 base salary would also increase to the low RFA tender or $1.308 million dollars."

Butler's signing bonus was $680,750 and those incentives that increase his 2012 base salary are present in the deal Butler signed yesterday.

Five of the Seahawks' seven draft picks are now under contract, and from a rookie pool perspective (The rookie pool is the total amount of cap dollars each team can spend on its draft picks' first-year cap numbers and the first-year signing bonus proration of their undrafted free agents), the 'Hawks are in good shape.

Seattle's 2009 rookie pool is $5,192,801, 10th-highest in the NFL. After signing Butler, the Seahawks have $3.404 million dollars remaining under their rookie pool, which should be plenty of room to sign first-round linebacker Aaron Curry and second-round center Max Unger

Let's begin with Unger, the 49th overall pick.

New England Patriots second-round cornerback Darius Butler, the 41st overall pick, has a first-year cap number of $750,000. Philadelphia Eagles second-round running back LeSean McCoy, the 53rd overall pick, has a first-year cap number of $652,500.

While the structure of Butler and McCoy's deals couldn't be more different, the range in which Unger's first-year cap number will fall in, $652,500-$750,000, is pretty much established.

Assuming that Unger's first-year cap number is right in the middle of that range ($701,250), that would leave the Seahawks with over $2.7 million dollars remaining on its rookie pool to sign Curry.

Due to rules regarding the uncapped year in 2010, the players at the very top of the draft are unlikely to receive a 2009 signing or roster bonus. Instead, they'll receive a fully guaranteed base salary in 2009 and a large option bonus in year two of the contract.

So based on the two deals involving Top 5 picks that have been signed thus far, a $2.7 million dollar base salary/cap number for Curry is good market-value.

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, chosen one spot behind Curry, has a 2009 base salary/cap number of $2.545 million dollars. Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, the first overall pick, has a 2009 base salary/cap number of $3.1 million dollars.

It's important to note that even though the first-year salaries and cap numbers are essentially slotted, neither side is looking for a one-year deal. There's still plenty of room for discussion regarding contract structure and how much of the deal will be guaranteed. So expect both the Seahawks and the representatives for both Unger and Curry to wait for a few more dominoes to fall before agreeing to a deal.

In addition to writing for NorthwestFootball.net, Brian McIntyre maintains his own blog, where he's tracking the signing status of the 2009 NFL Draft Class, and writes for FalconInsider.com. If you'd like to e-mail Brian, you may do so by clicking here.


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