The momentum in rookie signings that at one point spawned predictions of all deals being done by Memorial Day largely has disappeared, particularly in round one.
The main reason for the unsigned picks at the top of the process was and continues to be an obscure question regarding whether and to what extent a player will receive the balance of his fully-guaranteed salary even if he’s cut before the four-year contract ends and he signs with a new team.
Last year, only quarterback Cam Newton, the first overall pick in the draft, completely escaped the offset language that prevents double-dipping. This year, only Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechley, the ninth overall pick in round one, has avoided the offset language entirely.
As first reported by Len Pasquarelli of the Sports Xchange, that’s pushing the agents for the octet of players taken in front of Kuechley, like Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil (I had mention one of them to justify the photo), to argue for similar treatment — especially since four of the guys taken in the first eight picks are represented by CAA, the same firm that handles Kuechley.
Via communications with multiple sources having direct knowledge of the negotiations, PFT has confirmed that it’s definitely an issue.
But should it be?
On one hand, the players shouldn’t be clamoring for the ability to get paid twice. There’s something about the expectation that seems inherently unfair and unseemly. If a guy performs badly enough that he’s cut within four years by the team that made him a top-10 pick, he shouldn’t expect money for nothing if someone else is willing to pay all or part of what he would have gotten if he hadn’t been cut — or if he hadn’t been signed by a new team.
On the other hand, players at the top of the draft now get peanuts in comparison to what they used to receive. So why not guarantee the full amount of their contracts, even if they are cut and sign elsewhere?
There’s also a concern that, as teams pushed last year to get deals done after the lockout ended and as players anxious to get to work agreed to whatever language was included the rookie contracts, issues like the offset language weren’t properly fleshed out.
Actually, some players should prefer the absence of offset language. If the team that drafted a top-10 talent no longer wants him but will still pay his full contract even if he’s not on the team — and if he’ll also get paid more money if he signs with a new team — the player could get the Marcus Allen treatment, paid good money to stand around and watch games.
Either way, it’s a small issue that in the grand scheme of things should be resolved quickly. Though it’s not keeping any players away from offseason workouts (since rookie draft picks routinely participate without contracts), it shouldn’t cause any player to miss a single day of training-camp practice.
By next month, we’ll know whether it does.