Before 2011, few if any first-round picks had agreed to contracts by the start of summer. Five years in to the labor deal that includes a clear rookie wage scale, nearly all are signed.
This year, four first-round picks remain without deals: Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (No. 3 overall), Jets linebacker Darron Lee (No. 20 overall), Texans receiver Will Fuller (No. 21 overall), and 49ers offensive lineman Joshua Garnett (No. 28 overall).
All four unsigned players are represented by CAA.
Bosa’s dispute arises in part from the issue of offsets on guaranteed money. Teams typically want a dollar-for-dollar credit if the player is cut during the four years of his contract and signs elsewhere. Players, especially those taken in the top 10, routinely push for an opportunity to double dip.
Another factor for Bosa is believed to be cash flow, specifically as to the payout of a signing bonus that will be in the range of $17 million. Agents push to get the money as soon as possible; teams often try to defer actual payment of some of the money into the next year, or beyond.
Lee and Fuller fall at the spot where the structure shifts from four-year contracts that are fully guaranteed to deals that don’t guarantee every dollar. Through pick No. 19 (Bills linebacker Shaq Lawson), all four years are fully guaranteed. At pick No. 22, $620,000 of Washington receiver Josh Doctson’s $1.82 million salary for 2019 is not guaranteed.
Garnett lands at the spot in round one where partial guarantees for the fourth year give way to workout and training camp roster bonuses. Garnett may be pushing to get more guaranteed money in 2019.
So while there isn’t much to negotiate in first-round contracts, several hot spots remain at various levels of the first round. Still, holdouts are now rare, and it would be a surprise if any of the unsigned first-round picks remain unsigned when training camp opens.