Only two first-round picks haven’t signed their rookie contracts. And for the second straight year, the Titans are one of the last teams to agree to terms with a first-round rookie.
Tackle Taylor Lewan, the eleventh pick in the draft, has yet to work out a contract. Based on the deals done in 2013, it’s likely that Lewan hopes to replace his fully-guaranteed base salaries in all four years with, for 2015 through 2017, roster bonuses paid out early in training camp. Regarded as the next best thing to the removal of language that credits the original team with salary earned from a future employer, roster bonuses earned early in training camp give players non-refundable cash in hand, in the unlikely event that the team decides at some point after the start of training camp in any future year of the deal to cut a first-round draft pick.
Last year, Chargers tackle D.J. Fluker didn’t get roster bonuses as the eleventh pick in the draft. This year, Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. didn’t get roster bonuses as the twelfth overall pick. Lewan presumably wants roster bonuses — especially since teammate Chance Warmack ultimately got roster bonuses as the tenth pick in 2013.
Lewan likely will become the team’s left tackle. Warmack plays interior offensive line. It makes sense for Lewan to want the same structure as Warmack — especially since Warmack’s status as a top-10 pick puts him in line for a much higher fifth-year salary than Lewan. By rule, Warmack will be paid in 2017 the average of the 10 highest-paid offensive lineman in 2016. Lewan will get in 2018 the average of No. 3 through No. 25 in 2017.
Last year, the Titans didn’t work out a contract with Warmack until he missed several training camp practices. It could be that neither side blinks on Lewan’s deal until the rookie has held out for one or more days or work when the team reconvenes next month.