Five of the top 10 picks in the draft remain unsigned. The 22 picks after that are all signed, with the exception of two.
Taken consecutively at No. 24 and No. 25, the unsigned first-rounders beyond the top 10 are Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley and Browns safety Jabrill Peppers.
The reason for Conley’s lack of a contract is obvious; he’s the subject of an unresolved sexual assault investigation in Ohio. So why is Peppers the only first-round pick beyond the top 10 other than Conley who isn’t signed?
Per a league source with knowledge of the situation, the amount of the guaranteed money is one of the primary terms holding up the deal.
A fairly broad range has been set by the players taken at No. 26 (Falcons defensive end Tak McKinley) and at No. 23 (Giants tight end Evan Engram), with full guarantees for the first three years and a fourth-year guarantee of $655,000 for McKinley and $1.55 million for Engram. That’s a $900,000 spread in fourth-year guaranteed money over three picks; without the benefit of Conley being under contract, Peppers doesn’t have a direct, practical ceiling on his guaranteed money.
Another problem could be that last year’s 25th overall pick, Steelers cornerback Artie Burns, received in the fourth year of his contract not a partial salary guarantee but an $800,000 roster bonus due on the third day of training camp. Peppers, based on that precedent, may be pushing for the same thing, even though the players taken directly ahead of Burns and directly behind Burns didn’t get it.
None of this means that a deal won’t be done before the start of training camp. But with Peppers missing the first day of his rookie minicamp due to an issue with the standard letter of protection, it makes sense to keep an eye on what happens with this issue over the next couple of weeks.
Holdouts currently are rare, but holdouts from rookie minicamp are even more rare. Peppers already has done the former, if only for a day. The question now is whether he’ll do the latter. If only for a day.