With 2012 draft choices signing at a rate unprecedented for this early in the offseason, negotiating rookie deals seems to have never been so cookie-cutter, thanks in large part to a first-year wage scale that provides little wiggle room to either team-employed cap experts or to agents.
The CBA extension of last summer has assigned a slotted 2012 cap value, a "year one allotment" for each of the 253 choices, and with a first-year minimum of $390,000 and everyone trying to maximize the upfront money, calculating the signing bonus is a pretty easy formula.
But there is one matter that has slowed the process at the top of the draft – so-called "offset language."
It seems to be a principle hurdle to the logjam in the earliest quadrant of the first round, starting with Andrew Luck at No. 1 overall and including the top eight picks in April's draft.
The offset element has been, well, off-putting to the agents for the top eight.
The offset component – which, in most easily understandable terms, would grant relief to a franchise that releases a player, and then sees him sign with another team, usually in the final (fourth) year of a deal – is clearly a sticking point. It might, in fact, be perhaps the biggest one, and certainly the deterrent mentioned most frequently to The Sports Xchange in discussions with agents and team executives involved with top eight picks, that has precluded agreements for the premier choices.
As of Friday, none of the top eight prospects chosen in April had yet reached accords on their initial rookie contracts, and dickering over the offset language is believed to be a factor in all eight of those cases.
There was no offset language included in the contract awarded the 2011 top pick, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, and agents seem to be referring to that when the matter of including an offset clause is broached by teams.
"I'm not familiar with every comma of what's going on with negotiations, but I do know that (the offset language) is a big, big sticking point that we haven't been able to move beyond," one owner with a top five choice confirmed to The Sports Xchange at a one-day meeting in Atlanta on May 22. "Hopefully, we can get past it and get (our guy) signed."
Said one agent: "If they made a mistake taking (my player), and they decide that's the case after three years, why should they get relief? That's on them."
Neither side in the negotiations for the top eight players has budged much.
Granted, there hasn't been as much discussion by Dallas about a deal for the No. 6 pick, cornerback Morris Claiborne, because the Cowboys could not sign him until they received a June 1 cap rebate for the release of Terence Newman, but there were some discussions with agent Bus Cook regarding contract structure, and it's believed the concept of offsets was included.
A dozen of the 32 selections in the first round have already signed, linebacker Luke Kuechly of Carolina the highest at No. 9 (a deal that includes no offset language), but it could still be a while before any of the top eight choices reaches terms.
It might be the only major haggling point remaining in a signing process that has lacked drama to this juncture and figures to feature few, if any, of the usual 11th-hour deals.
There has been some suggestion that all 32 of the first-round selections could have deals before the beginning of July, weeks before teams report to training camps, and probably the earliest date ever for completing all the contracts.
The battle over offset language, though, could still add some intrigue to the process.
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