The 2006 revisions to the labor deal between the NFL and its union limit the length of contract for players drafted after the first round to four years.
Previously, some teams were insisting on five-year deals in round two and beyond. Plenty of players, however, were doing three-year deals in the lower rounds of the draft.
Once the four-year was adopted, however, more and more teams began using four-year contracts, all the way to round seven.
This year, we’ve only spotted five teams using three-year deals in the latter rounds.
And one of them is one of the least likely to use the shorter terms — the Chiefs.
New G.M. Scott Pioli came from New England, were longer rookie deals were the norm. But in the first year of the Pioli regime, the three second-day picks that the Chiefs have inked to date signed three-year deals: tackle Colin Brown, tight end Jake O’Connell, and kicker Ryan Succop.
It’s unclear why the Chiefs have opted not to lock the players up for an extra year. Since the contracts aren’t guaranteed, the Chiefs could cut a player if, by year four, he hasn’t developed into a long-term contributor.
The only benefit to the team for a shorter deal is that it entails a smaller signing bonus. But not by much. In signing Brown (a third-rounder) to a three-year deal, the Chiefs saved about $45,000 in signing bonus money, given the signing bonuses paid to the player taken just in front of him and just behind him, both of whom signed four-year contracts.
The other teams using three-year deals for second-day picks are the Cardinals, Ravens, Lions, and Steelers.
Given that both the Super Bowl champs and the first 0-16 team in league history are doing it, it’s hard to say whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea.
In our view, it makes sense to tie the guy up for a fourth year, since it eliminates the season of restricted free agency under the current CBA. (Of course, the system of restricted free agency could change dramatically or disappear by the time the fourth year of the current rookie deals arrive.)
Regardless, we assume that the teams who are using shorter deals are doing it for a reason. For the better organizations, it’s likely a good reason. For the Lions, chances are it’s a bad reason — or no reason at all.