With Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (No. 11 overall) and Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (No. 12) agreeing to terms on Sunday, seven first-round picks are still unsigned.
Strangely, they all land from picks No. 17 through 24. They are Patriots tackle Nate Solder (No. 17), Chargers defensive tackle Corey Liuget (No. 18), Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara (No. 19; pictured), Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor (No. 21), Colts tackle Anthony Castonzo (No. 22), Eagles guard Danny Watkins (No. 23), and Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (No. 24).
The only player signed in that eight-man stretch is the first first-rounder to sign: Bucs defensive end Adrian Clayborn, the 20th overall pick. Clayborn’s deal, negotiated by up-and-comer Blake Baratz, overshot the pick-by-pick formula not only for the 20th slot, but also for the 19th slot, occupied by Amukamara. That wrinkle could be keeping Amukamara’s deal from getting done.
The bigger issue is the extent to which the teams are willing to fully guarantee the four-year deals. Clayborn’s at No. 20 is fully guaranteed. The contract signed by Seahawks offensive lineman James Carpenter at No. 25 is guaranteed only for the first three years. For picks No. 21 through No. 24, the fight centers on whether three or four years will be guaranteed.
The Colts are drawing a line in the sand at No. 22 with Castonzo. “Agents are asking for a four-year guarantee, which we will not do,” Colts vice chairman Bill Polian said, via News-Sentinel.com. “As I mentioned, we are old school and if we won’t give Joseph Addai, who helped us to two Super Bowls and helped us win two AFC championships, a fully guaranteed contract, we aren’t going to do it for a rookie, any rookie. We love Anthony. We think he’s a great draft choice and we think he would be a great Colt, but it’s time for him to prove that before he gets a fully guaranteed contract.”
Ditto for the Eagles at No. 23; per Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com, the Eagles only want to guarantee the first three years of the contract.
The solution could be for the teams and the agents to agree to guarantee three years — the last three years. As a practical matter, this guarantees the entire deal, allowing the teams to say that they didn’t guarantee the entire four years.
Either way, look for these deals to get done soon.