Of the 32 first-round draft picks from 2011, 21 have had their fifth-year options exercised. But none have received new contracts.
None. As it not a single one. There’s not even much discussion about active contract negotiations for any of the 21 first-round picks from three years ago, who are now under contract for two more seasons.
Before the 2011 CBA, draft picks could get new contracts after two years. Now, with three years before a rookie is eligible for a new contract, none have been rewarded — even though the ones taken at the top of the round saw the value of their initial NFL contracts shrink by millions in order to stop busts like Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell from sucking millions more out of the system.
Players such as Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (No. 1 overall), Bengals receiver A.J. Green (fourth overall), Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (fifth overall), Falcons receiver Julio Jones (sixth overall), Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith (ninth overall), Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (eleventh overall), Rams defensive end Robert Quinn (14th overall), and Dolphins center Mike Pouncey (15th overall) have shown that they deserve the money they didn’t get three years ago, and then some. They should get new contracts.
Unless they’re willing to pay $30,000 per day for missing training camp, they don’t have much leverage. Nevertheless, Peterson (pictured) has declined to rule out a holdout. Some think Watt, who hasn’t said anything one way or the other, could be a surprise no-show once training camp starts.
So what’s going on? As one league insider suggested, the across-the-board absence of meaningful efforts to reward young players who have proven their value through three NFL seasons could be proof of collusion among the teams.
It wouldn’t be easy to prove, but at a certain point the volume of first-rounders eligible for new contracts after three years of service becomes glaring.