The rookie wage scale has greatly simplified the process of negotiating rookie contracts. So why are only 18 of 32 first-round draft picks signed?
Let’s take a look at the situation, unsigned pick by unsigned pick.
It starts with tackle Eric Fisher, the first overall pick in the draft. A deal is expected before the Chiefs start training camp. The team is pushing for offset language in the fully-guaranteed deal, something to which no first overall pick under the new rookie wage scale has agreed. If Fisher accepts the term, look for favorable cash flow and a structure that minimizes the signing bonuses and pushes money into training-camp roster bonuses.
At No. 7, there’s no specific impediment between the Cardinals and guard Jonathan Cooper, because they still haven’t engaged in serious talks yet.
At No. 9, the Jets and cornerback Dee Milliner were haggling over offset language. Ditto for the Titans and guard Chance Warmach at No. 10.
At No. 19, the Giants and tackle Justin Pugh have yet to work out a deal. It’s possible that Pugh is pushing for a fully-guaranteed four-year deal, given that safety Eric Reid got one from the 49ers at No. 18 and guard Kyle Long got most of his deal guaranteed by the Bears at No. 20.
The biggest cluster of unsigned first-round picks lands from No. 22 through No. 26. At the front of that logjam, we’ve heard mixed reports on the delay between the Falcons and cornerback Desmond Trufant. On one hand, the amount of the guaranteed money Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden received in that same slot last year could be complicating talks. On the other hand, both sides seem to be confident that the deal will get resolved before camp opens in Atlanta.
At No. 24, defensive end Bjeorn Werner is trying, we’re told, to get a portion of his non-guaranteed fourth-year salary in the form of an early roster bonus from the Colts, like the one last year’s No. 24 pick, David DeCastro, obtained from the Steelers.
Packers defensive end Datone Jones, the 26th pick, also is unsigned. The specific holdup isn’t known, but there’s a chance the two sides are haggling over a fourth-year training-camp reporting bonus, which the 27th selection (Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins) obtained.
Despite the delay, holdouts have been few and far between under the new rookie wage scale. Look for most of the deals to get done before the various teams open camp.