Top-end rookie contracts aren’t worth the exorbitant money they were prior to the current collective bargaining agreement, but this system is so much easier for NFL teams to get their draft picks signed and immersed into their team’s way of doing things quickly.
With first overall pick Jared Goff reportedly ready to sign his four-year contract Thursday, according to NFL Media, only six first-round picks remained unsigned before NFL minicamps are even completed. The “good old days” were great for unproven rookies getting rich quick, but they weren’t so good to all NFL teams, who would often see first-round picks holding out until the start of training camp, and sometimes even into training camp, the preseason and occasionally into the regular season.
Some NFL front offices would even wait until returning from their Fourth of July vacations to start contract negotiations in earnest, figuring that more of the market would be set with other rookies agreeing to deals.
These days? Most of the parameters of a rookie contract are already set before the draft pick is even executed, and the new system has put more money into the salary-cap pool for veteran players, leaving rookies to prove their worth before cashing in heavily on their second contracts.
Goff, the No. 1 overall pick for the Los Angeles Rams, provides a strong comparative case between his contract Sam Bradford’s rookie deal. The Rams are the franchise that last had to pay a No. 1 overall quarterback big money under the old (pre-2011) system.
Back in 2010, the then-St. Louis Rams selected Bradford first overall and he broke the bank, becoming the first $50 million man on July 30, 2010, the date of the Rams’ first full-squad training camp workout. Bradford had $50 million guaranteed in his six-year, $78 million contract that had a maximum earning power of $86 million.
Not only did Bradford fail to become an elite quarterback, he has a pedestrian 81.0 passer rating after four seasons with the Rams and last year with the Philadelphia Eagles, who, ironically, selected their apparent quarterback of the future, Carson Wentz, No. 2 overall in this year’s draft, setting up Bradford to likely look for his third NFL team in the coming years (he is signed through 2017).
The total value of Goff’s four-year contract is projected to be just under $28 million, or about one-third of Bradford’s six-year deal six years ago. Wentz’s contract is for just over $26.6 million.
The saving grace for Wentz and other highly drafted picks is that much – or in Wentz’s case, all – of their contracts are guaranteed, but that still puts Wentz’s guaranteed money just over half of what Bradford had guaranteed.
Paxton Lynch, who agreed to a deal on Thursday, is expected to have his contract worth about $9.5 million with $5 million guaranteed.
But with Wentz under contract and Goff and Lynch reportedly agreeing to deals, all the first-round quarterbacks will be under contract six weeks in advance of training camps opening with some of them agreeing to terms before their respective minicamps.
If Goff’s deal gets done, it takes care of all three first-round quarterbacks and leaves only DE Joey Bosa unsigned among players taken in the first half of the first round. It would also leave only six first-round picks unsigned.
It’s a long time in advance of when many of the first-round rookies signed six years ago and a refreshing change for fans that experienced angst with each approaching day of training camp with their top picks still unsigned. Sometimes the “good old days” don’t look so good, depending on whose perspective is being queried.