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Last year’s contracts may delay signing this year’s third-round picks

Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener AP

When we posted the full list of unsigned draft picks last week, it was no surprise that of the 32 unsigned picks, 14 of them were taken in the first round: First-round contracts are the most lucrative and generally take the longest time to negotiate.

But it was a bit surprising that of the other 18 unsigned rookies, 12 of them were the first 12 players taken in the third round.

So what’s the holdup with the players taken early in the third round of the draft? Tim Graham of the Buffalo News reports that it stems from the contracts signed by high third-round picks last year: A few players taken early in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft agreed to rookie contracts that paid them less than the deals that some of the players taken later in the third round got, and as a result teams and agents have different opinions about what the fair market value is for a high third-round pick.

Bills receiver T.J. Graham, the sixth player taken in the third round, finally signed today, which may be an indication that teams and agents are starting to find common ground for players taken early in the third round of the draft. But at a time when the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has generally allowed smooth sailing for rookie contracts, it’s been slow going for the first dozen third-round picks.

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