Though the new rookie wage scale leaves first-round picks and the teams that picked them precious few subjects about which to haggle, one point of potential contention arises from the question of how much of the rookie deal will be guaranteed.
Last year and this year, the first 16 picks received four-year deals with fully-guaranteed compensation. Last year and this year, picks 17, 18, and 19 received three years of a full guarantee, with fourth-year compensation split between a guaranteed base salary and a non-guaranteed roster bonus due early in the league year. This approach reduces the guaranteed money by $750,000 or so, but also forces the team to make a decision about whether to keep the player early enough in the offseason to give him the best chance to make up the difference elsewhere.
In 2011, the 20th overall pick (Bucs defensive end Adrian Clayborn) was the lone exception after the 16th pick, getting a fully-guaranteed four-year deal. (He benefited from the fact that he was the first first-round pick to sign.) And while the players taken at pick 22 and after received guaranteed pay for three years only, the 21st selection (Browns defensive lineman Phil Taylor) also received a fourth-year package consisting of a blend of guaranteed salary and an offseason roster bonus.
This year, the contract given to Pats defensive end Chandler Jones, the 21st pick in the draft, matches the structure of Taylor’s deal in all but one way. Per a source with knowledge of the deal, there is no roster bonus.
It’s a subtle be real difference. In 2015, the Patriots won’t have to make an early decision about Jones, and they can save $750,000 or so by cutting him before the season starts. The Browns won’t have that luxury with Taylor in 2014.
The formula will put pressure on Tennessee receiver Kendall Wright, this year’s 20th overall pick. While Clayborn got a fully-guaranteed deal in 2011, there’s a good chance the Titans will insist on using the hybrid roster bonus/guaranteed base salary approach used for picks 17, 18, and 19.
If Wright takes a stand on a matter of principal, he could be one of the rare rookie holdouts under the new CBA.