Last night, we took issue with the general belief that the rookie wage scale will promote trades at the top of the draft. While the reduced contract value has made the top-10 picks more attractive (or, perhaps, less unattractive), the teams that hold the picks know that it’s now cheaper to occupy into one of the top spots in the selection process. Which could increase the price for a trade up.
There’s another dynamic that, we’re told, will be an issue in any trade talks. The difference between the calculation of the fifth-year option payment for the first 10 first-round picks and the next 22 makes a top-10 pick somewhat less desirable for a team that doesn’t already hold a top-10 pick.
As explained on Friday, the first 10 picks now sign four-year contracts. The team can retain the player’s rights for a fifth season by offering a one-year salary equal to the average cap number of the 10 highest-paid players at the same position. For picks 11 through 32, the year-five option is determined by averaging the cap number for the third through 25th-highest paid players at the same position.
Last year, the cutoff came after the Jaguars selected quarterback Blaine Gabbert with the 10th overall selection.
For now, the gap between those two numbers isn’t dramatic. Per a league source, the difference at the quarterback position currently would exceed $3 million. Four years from now, however, the split could be much wider — especially since fewer incoming quarterbacks will be driving up the average from No. 3 through No. 25 with monstrous rookie deals.
It’s simply another factor to consider when discussing first-round trades. If anything, it could serve to make it harder, not easier, to get deals done.
But yet there continues to be story after story regarding an expectation that trades will increase.