Curious lack of extensions for 2011 first-round picks

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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.

47 responses to “Curious lack of extensions for 2011 first-round picks

  1. Wasn’t it 11 who’s options were not exercised? For the teams, it just makes sense to stretch out the negotiations. They still have the option of using the franchise tag in 2016.

  2. I don’t know about collusion, I think it’s more just the fact that teams have all the leverage. Sure, these guys have earned new contracts but why rush to sign them and blow up their cap numbers before you absolutely have to?

  3. Don’t see the need to extend players that have two years remaining on their deals…makes no business sense.

  4. Nobody cared what the rules for incoming players were when the collective bargaining agreement was signed. They weren’t represented. It was the league negotiating with current players. Of course the rookies got screwed.

  5. Jerry Angelo’s first round pick for the Bears that year (OL Gabe Carimi) is already on his third NFL team. Good riddance.

  6. In terms of 2011 1sr round picks who have earned a new contract, Prince Amukamara’s name should be up there with the rest of them. Prince basically lost his entire rookie season. He was the last rookie to sign and then broke his foot in his first official practice. His second year he also missed time due to injury.

    Last year was the first year he had a full training camp, and he showed during the season just how good he can be. QB’s rarely threw his way. Check his grades out on ProFootballFocus. You wrote in a previous article that Prince wasnt a top CB. By the end of this year he will be. With DRC on theopposite side, he’ll definitely be tested. There will be no excuses when he proves he’s a top 10 CB in the league this year.

  7. Rookies were offered contract extensions so quickly in the past because it was the only way to spread out their over-inflated cap numbers and create cap space for their teams. Now that that’s no longer a necessity, teams are treating them just like every other player, most of whom only get contract extensions when they have, at most, one year remaining.

  8. every time i look back at that draft i get depressed. so many good players that year and the vikes ended up with ponder. i thought we were drafting robert quinn for sure.

  9. It’s just a differently structured money game right now but this is also the system the players wanted and agreed to. There still are rules that teams have to spend 89% of the cap anyhow so the players will get the money eventually despite a few that slip through the cracks and get a raw deal compared to their respective peers. Complain to your union rep if you aren’t happy with the deal.

  10. Some good comments above. Yes, teams have all the leverage now. Player is locked in to contract at relatively low level for year 4 (this year) and reasonable level for year 5 (5th year option). Players need to take back some of the leverage. 1) Publicly state to fans “We approached management about a long term contract to lay out my career here, but they really were not interested. Whenever my time is up, if I am traded or become a free agent, I have loved playing for the fans of city X”; 2) There is no incentive for “exceptional” performance in year 4, just enough to have the option kick in. Therefore, no heroics, no playing hurt, no unnecessary risks.

  11. The reason more players got extensions before the new labor agreement was for cap relief. The extension would spread the cap hit of all bonuses over the life of the new contract.

    With smaller rookie contracts cap reduction is no long needed hence fewer new contracts.

  12. It’s the teams deciding to use the players on their slotted rookie deals for the term of the agreement. After the contract is complete, they can look for the same in future drafts.
    I’d expect players getting long term deals after their rookie deal is complete are going to be fewer and fewer.
    The obvious exception will be star players in skill positions or pass rushers.
    Players that are merely good will find themselves on the wrong end of low-ball deals in their second contract.

  13. The answer to this is simply. Before 2011 rookies got fat contracts. Before teams would resign players with 2 years or more left because it was in their interest to do so. Before 2011 many top picks had bigger base salaries than established veterans. So teams resigned them to news deals so instead of paying huge base salaries they could resign them and incorporate signing bonuses/workout bonuses. Doing that gave those players the money they wanted as well as effectively lowering their cap numbers. It’s not collusion that’s happing now; it’s just good business.

    With cheaper rookie deals why pay more when they don’t have to. That’s just the way it’s gonna be from now on. Players are gonna have to wait a little longer to get those big multi-years deals. The teams have all the leverage.

  14. @tiproast,
    That isn’t an extension, that is the exercising of the fifth year team option, which isn’t a new contract that an extension would be, but a fifth year under his rookie contract, which is exactly what 21 other teams have done, exercised their fifth year option on their first round draft pick’s rookie contract. So, while I haven’t done the research to determine if any of these players have signed a new contract, I can say based upon the article you linked to, that Nate Solder has definitely not signed a new contract.

  15. The more changes you read about in the last CBA, the more you see that the players got screwed.

  16. crubenst says:
    May 4, 2014 4:39 PM
    Nobody cared what the rules for incoming players were when the collective bargaining agreement was signed. They weren’t represented. It was the league negotiating with current players. Of course the rookies got screwed.


    You nailed it. End of story. The NFLPA did not do a darn thing for rookies and threw them under the bus.

    Cut the draft down to six rounds and end compensatory picks. That would, in effect, push two rounds of talent into UDFA status. Then make UDFA contracts, two year max deals. Free up the talent and stop rewarding teams for letting their recent draft picks leave as free agents.

  17. I think the perception is that players are greedy and they should be thankful for the money they make meanwhile destroying themselves in the best interests of the team if they want the best money they can receive they are labeled greedy…I think exploitation is a better word to define how owners treat there players considering the health risks involved,they make an insane profit margin and when provoked blame players for the state of everything it’s clearly one sided

  18. Shock and awe! Owners don’t love the players, they love the profit. Fans don’t love the players, they love the “colors”.

    Players are paying for the past sins of bad owners, who made huge mistakes. In the free market, that’s called the price of doing business. They want and got protection “from themselves”.

    In the socialist NFL, the owners have insurance against failure. Hardly seems fair, but the fans identify with the owners and loathe the players. Tell me again who the greedy ones are.

  19. Surprisingly, Eagles first pick that year, 27 year old Danny Watkins, will not be signed to an extension (heck, he’s not even on the team)……but he is quite close to qualifying for AARP benefits. Nice pick Howie!

  20. As far as the Ravens go, its not hard to figure out. The reason Jimmy Smith isn’t getting a new contract but a fifth year option is the other Smith (Torrey) they drafted in the next round who is in the final year of his rookie deal with no such fifth year option available and has proven just as valuable to the franchise. They’ll focus on getting him resigned this year and turn their attention to Jimmy next offseason when he is actually on that fifth year option.

  21. I don’t understand what the difference is between a long term deal and a 5th year option and possibly being franchise tagged 2 years in a row. My example AJ Green his option is for like 10.5 mil and I hope this doesn’t happen but after that 5th year option the Bengals can franchise him 2 year in a row which is the average of the top 5 yearly salaries at that position and I’m guessing for a WR is between 10-15 mil, so let’s call it 12.5. Now that’s 3 years 35.5 million sounds like a good deal to me.

  22. What happened was that the billionaire owners locked out the players, many of whom are millionaires and many of whom are not, and squeezed them for a sweetheart deal. Meanwhile, most of the fans cheered them on. Public opinion ran overwhelming in favor of the owners against the “greedy” players.

    Well, the owners took notice. Now they know they don’t have to worry about the idea that a great player who leads a team to greatness early in their career may actually deserve to have their rookie contract renegotiated based upon their accomplishments. They know that they can make cold business decisions and use their leverage in all situations, because for some reason, the majority of the fans seem to have come to the conclusion that it’s the owners that make the game great and not the players.

  23. I think it’s great if players play great and are rewarded for their efforts. But as a fan, I really don’t care how much one player makes. I care much more that my team has money to spread around so that we’re talented and can win every year. Every position on a team is important and every player would love to be a gazilionaire but the reality from the teams’ point of view is that if you’re going to field a competitive team you need to find ways to find good deals and manage your cap space carefully. If you can put off paying a player huge money until next year and this allows the team to be more competitive, hey go for it because I care about wins!

  24. sign a 4 year deal with a team 5th yr. option, no new contracts after 3 years = collusion?
    Proof of collusion no less. Geez

  25. Hmmm? Seahawks try to extend players with two years left on their contract. Guess the miserable Seahawks actually care and value their players. They turned down big name free agent deals because that would have gotten in the way of taking are of their own

  26. There’s no upside to extending players early

    The risks are high, so any player worth extending would have to reject such a team friendly contract

    From the team’s standpoint, if they’re worth giving a contract extension to, they’re probably worth tagging

    So in effect, with the fifth optional year, they have them for a sixth if they tag them – and even if it’s a high amount for one year it’s worth it for the life of the contract.

  27. God this site is so pro union and pro players it makes me want to GAG. Maybe the teams are just sick of paying RIDICULOUS amounts of money to men who play a game for a living. These players are already GROSSLY overpaid, and still they whine (with Florio’s enthusiastic support and constant bleating about collusion) for more money.

    Give it up and be grateful you have a job that makes you a millionaire. And Mike, try, just try, not to jump on every little sign that your beloved players aren’t sticking it to the owners for every dollar at every opportunity.

  28. What possible incentive do teams have this year to extend players unless they are absolute, drop dead franchise players? All I hear about this draft is that it has the deepest talent, perhaps ever, because of the record number of underclassmen coming out. Why commit a spot now when you can wait out most of the season to see how your rookie class shakes out? Especially for the teams with a lot of picks, there’s no hurry. It’s not collusion, it’s called patience.

  29. Some of these guy have earned their keep and its time for some teams to man up and “pay the man”

  30. Yeah, I’m so sure this really doesn’t screw over players but rather rewards the players not in the first round, ie Russell Wilson, it shouldn’t screw him over. If anything you can reward the best player from your draft class rather than just first round picks, ie Matt Stafford, who is luck to be drafted the year he got drafted. He would have just now just now got rewarded instead have two fat pay days.

  31. Yeah, I’m so sure this really doesn’t screw over players but rather rewards the players not in the first round, ie Russell Wilson, it shouldn’t screw him over. If anything you can reward the best player from your draft class rather than just first round picks, ie Matt Stafford, who is luck to be drafted the year he got drafted. He would have just now, instead be having two fat pay days.

  32. Simple math guys.

    Lets use Patrick Peterson as an example.

    Peterson signed a 4 year, $18.5 million dollar deal, and his payout THIS season is $2.88 million.

    Next year, with the 5th year option, he will make around $10 million.

    Hard to imagine exactly what he will make per year, but I imagine he will get around 5 years, $45 million, $15 mil bonus.

    His cap number under that contract would be $3 million in prorated bonus, plus league min, his cap charge will be around $4 million.

    This way, with the same contract next year, Peterson will cost against the cap about $8 million. To re-do the deal now, he will cost $4 million this year, and probably $7 million the following year.

  33. The league insider is an idiot then. In the past teams needed to lower the salary cap hit of the first round draft picks because they were making more than the vets.

    The teams are under no such pressure now. Extending the players early no longer benefits the team.

    The league insider might want to look for another job if he doesn’t understand that.

  34. Please take the time to read up on the rules regarding rookie contracts. Basically, the talk about these players being hosed over by the owners is the talk of fans with very memories. The reason for the structured rookie deals is that rookies that came in prior to 2011, signed ridiculously bloated contracts and it was costing veteran players their jobs. Teams had no incentive for using a first round pick because of the cost.

    And it also would be a good story to write, if you would explain the structure of the rookie contracts and the escalator clauses and options. These players will have the opportunity to be compensated nicely in their fifth year. Also, explain the rules regarding when a rookie contract can be extended.

    Basically, if no team is extending a contract on first round players from 2011, there is probably a logical explanation behind it. Not collusion. Probably a rule.

  35. This just shows that Demarcus Smith at the NFLPA is horrible and did a bad deal.

    The average player is in the NFL for 3 years.

    I am guessing that the average first rounder is in maybe 6 years.

    These deals last 5 years.

    I would not sign a new deal either if I was an owner and had two more years left on a contract and could tag them the following year.

  36. Come back next year. Most players would have their cap numbers go up this year if they signed an extension. Teams are going to let them play out the last year of their rookie deal, then extend them to reduce the cap hit of the option year.

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