Around NFL training camps, the ambition was to get rookie players signed to long-term deals and in camp on-time. Through numerous discussions with representatives and team officials over the past month, it comes of no surprise that rookie players are sitting out the opening of training camps at an alarming rate.
Around NFL training camps, the ambition was to
get rookie players signed to long-term deals and in camp on-time. Through
numerous discussions with representatives and team officials over the past
month, it comes of no surprise that rookie players are sitting out the opening
of training camps at an alarming rate.
As we noted here at the NFL Insiders at the end of
June, the period leading up to the training camp season could be a trying
experience, not only to the interest fan, but the front offices of NFL teams
across the country.
The first couple thoughts that comes to mid
when a drafted rookie does not agree to terms are that the team much be
low-balling the player in the offer or the player representative is keeping the
player on the shelf waiting to receive every last penny an organization has to
offer. This training camp season, the story behind the holdout situation around
the NFL is a different story.
After watching the New York Jets lose key players
in free agency with three years of service at the end of the 2002 season, namely wide receiver Laveranues Coles
and return specialist Chad Morton, teams began to formalize a game-plan to
secure the rights of their players for a longer duration.
While the common negotiating practice
attempted throughout the league this off-season is to lock up a player to a
contract of five-years in duration or longer, notion has not been
received well by the player representatives. Not only does this attempt by
the team negotiators draw out the negotiation process because of the relative
foreign ground of the issue, this ploy is causing players to sit of training
camps due to the notion of the players that the teams are attempting to hold
them hostage and minimize their future earnings opportunities.
Though the negotiating philosophy of the teams
has changed, this negotiating theory can also backfire on the shrewdest of NFL
salary cap experts throughout the league. Indications coming from both team
front offices and player representatives are that the trade-off for
agreeing to the longer-term deals, players are being compensated with larger
signing bonuses and playing incentives to enhance strictly a financial gain for
the player that are easier to achieve. Granted, if a player does not perform,
the team has the ability to release the player and only be penalized by taking a
salary-cap hit over a two year period, as well as paying out the actual bonus
Especially regarding the first and second round
draft selections, NFL team negotiators have been reluctant to agree to terms
with player representatives on contracts that have numerous and easily achieved
escalators in the deal that can provide the player with an opt-out option
towards free agency status.
What is being seen in the league heading into
training camp is that lower round draft selections are holding out at a record
pace. Again, the increased duration of the contracts being offered by the
teams is basically the only issue. One team that immediately must be looked at
regarding this touchy with player representatives is the Cleveland
Heading into training camp this weekend, the Browns
are the only team in the league that does not have one drafted rookie under
contract. According to the team and representatives for all of the draft
selections, contract offers of no less than five-years were forwarded to
representatives rather early in the process, this caught many player
representatives by surprise for their lower round draft clients.
Throughout the negotiating process, the Browns
position has not changed regarding the duration of the contracts offered to
their draftees. Player representatives for the entire Browns draft
class all claim that the team has offered the players a financial
increase in base salary and/or bonus compensation for the players selected in
the 2003 draft in comparison to those selected with the same selection in prior
drafts. Despite the Browns offering of increased compensation, the players are
holding out of training camp. The Browns and representatives for the unsigned rookies are optimistic that the contract negotiations will conclude by early next week.
For better or worse, the game within the game in
the NFL is changing. Below is a summary of
the first round draft selection that have not agreed to terms and the latest
update on contract talks.
10. Baltimore Terrell
Contract negotiations making minimal
12. St. Louis Jimmy
Kennedy DT Penn
Expected in camp no later than
15. Philadelphia Jerome McDougle
Progress made over past
48-hours, possible signing within 72-hours.
Numerous contract terms agreed upon, length,
bonus, opt-out in question.
Johnson WR Penn
DE Wake Forest
Expected to be in camp no
later than Tuesday.
19. Baltimore Kyle
Close to an
21. Cleveland Jeff
C Notre Dame
Expected in camp no later
Minimal movement, major differences in
bonus structure, length of years, buyouts,.
Giants William Joseph
over past 24-hours, agreement could come by Monday.