Unsigned draft picks should refuse to work without contracts

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From time to time, we (specifically I) get accused of tilting at windmills, making arguments aimed at (from our . . . my . . . perspective) making certain aspects of football more fair for the people who play the game at both the pro and college levels. Some don’t particularly care for our (my) anti-establishment positions, primarily those who have a vested interest in keeping things they way they are.

Meanwhile, a trend has emerged among college football players to make business decisions to skip bowl games and to pass on private workouts. So maybe the windmills are starting to tilt back, a little.

Here’s the windmill at which I try to tilt every year at this time, in the days after the draft: Draft picks should refuse to participate in rookie minicamps or ongoing offseason workouts without signed contracts.

Yes, draft picks can sign so-called letters of protection that will guarantee them the contracts that they would otherwise get under the slotted wage scale if they pop an Achilles or tear an ACL or suffer a more permanent injury. But why not just sign the players to their contracts and make them official employees before expecting them to show up and work?

It’s not an unreasonable request, especially since it’s now so easy to work out the rookie deals. And if there is any haggling to be done, the player has leverage in his ability to withhold services until he gets that to which he’s entitled.

It’s also not unreasonable because plenty of teams will get their entire classes of picks signed quickly, leaving no ambiguity as to the protections that apply if the worst-case scenario unfolds while at work. If some teams actually do it, all teams can do it, and all players should insist that every team does do it.

This is a message not just for the players, since most of them will just go along with whatever they’re expected to do. The agents who represent them need to be willing to stand up and say, “The kid will be there when his contract is signed.”

That’s the way it works once training camp opens, and that’s the way it should work during the pre-training camp portion of the calendar.

30 responses to “Unsigned draft picks should refuse to work without contracts

  1. That’s easy for you to preach, but you’re not a young player looking for work in a highly competitive field. Same thing with your argument that prospects should refuse certain pro day/ combine tests such as the Wonderlic. That may be ok for sure fire top 5 first round draft picks, but not for everyone else. No player wants to be labeled as the trouble maker when you’re fighting to just get INTO a camp, especially for undrafted rookies. Ask Kaepernick what it’s like to stand up for yourself and what you believe in.

  2. After your days as a member of the media are over you can go work for the NFLPA.

  3. The 1rst OTAs are 3 weeks after the draft. The rookies also have to attend the rookie symposium during that period. Between draft picks and UFAs most teams are bringing about 20 rookies to camp. Even though the contracts are slotted, there’s still a little wiggle room for haggling, bonus money, etc. It’d be a little unreasonable to expect teams to get all their guys done during this period. And if rookies miss time, they fall even further behind. Since the Letter of Intent covers them, I don’t see any reason to make a stand on this issue.

  4. Yes, draft picks can sign so-called letters of protection that will guarantee them the contracts that they would otherwise get under the slotted wage scale if they pop an Achilles or tear an ACL or suffer a more permanent injury.

    I fail to see your problem then. Change just for changes sake is the ASWs hallmark.

  5. I am curious if there are actual examples of a player getting hurt and NOT getting his slotted contract.

    Otherwise, I think your idea would also hurt the players in question. Why do you assume teams would be able to sign players quickly?

    Holdouts work for the player when the team starts to feel the pain of the player not being there. During mini-camps, teams would feel that pain much less than training camp or actual games.

    Players, especially quarterbacks, would miss many more reps, which could cost them playing time, which could cost them on field success and the offseason rewards that come with that success.

    If this aspect of the system was so unfair to the players, wouldn’t we have heard them complaining about it more often, especially during the last CBA? The only time I remember hearing a peep from a player on this was Shawne Merriman, and that was mainly because he didn’t think the protection language was strong enough. He wasn’t opposed to the concept, just the specific details.

  6. Fair argument here. But this whole business decision standpoint relies on other factors. For example somebody who is projected as mid round draft pick (4th-7th round) would most likely benefit from participating in the scouting combine, senior bowl, pro day workouts and the other measures. On the other hand somebody who is projected as a 1st-3rd round pick doesn’t have as much to gain by participating in the pre-draft events. Ultimately, as others have said the players film does not lie. And most of the decisions can probably be made on just the game film. But it is beneficially for teams to measure and evaluate draft picks all in one sitting and get “official data”. Also having a player attend the scouting combine means that they don’t have to count against a team’s visit limit.

  7. What’s the protection for the owners? What if a player signs, gets his signing bonus then gets in legal trouble to point the team wants nothing to do with him. They can cut him but are out the cash. Currently they now just tell him don’t bother showing up.

  8. every year you make the same argument and every year you sound like a dolt. You’re an attorney right? make a valid argument for crying out loud and maybe people will back you. For example show that owners are intentionally NOT signing picks in case they get hurt and you’ll have won the battle. But you haven’t done that.

  9. Just take the negotiation out if it.. Slot the contract terms relative to position and call it a day. Get rid of the offset language or make it mandatory for the first round. The player should be signed automatically when the draft takes place.

  10. Most rookies need the OTAs and off season programs to have any sort of chance at being successful at the NFL level.

    Staying away also means you don’t get a playbook to study, you don’t get the conditioning working out under the team trainers gives you therefore reducing the chance of injury during the coming season, don’t get the familiarity with the other players, coaches and systems they need to be successful.

    If anything they should demand the agents and or team buy them an insurance policy and that would solve the problem.

  11. If I were a GM or owner, I’d hand the player the contract I want him to sign and tell him it’s his choice whether to sign it or not. If he signs it, fine. If he doesn’t, I’d tell him to call me when he is ready to sign it.

    The thing I would not do is allow the player or his agent to tell me what I am going to pay him. Every player who comes out of college, whether they are drafted or are a street free agent, has done nothing in the NFL and they need to prove they belong.

    The days of drafted players walking on the field for the first time making more money than the veterans on the team are long over.

  12. Sure easy for Florio to say. If someone offered the 22-year old me chance to show up at their training camp, when I knew I was a long shot to stick.

    Recall people were saying black coaches should decline interviews when they appeared to be mere “Rooney Rule” interviews. Take a look at Mike Tomlin. Everyone and their mother said it was nothing more than a “Rooney Rule” interview, and either Ken Whisenhunt or Russ Grimm were gonna get the job for sure. Imagine if Tomlin listened to those people.

    If you are undrafted FA, and you are offered a slot and don’t take it, it ain’t coming again, so you’d better take it, regardless of the terms. In the real world, I worked for free and minimum wage when I was starting out. I got great opportunities and knowledge from it. Sorry Florio, easy for you to tell people to walk away or sit out.

  13. The dolphins only do classroom training for rookie weekend, so the rookies shouldn’t a contract for them either?

    Also, what happens off they don’t like it there and they decide to go to the other teams that were interested in them?

  14. I would argue that holding oneself out of OTAs and minicamps lessens the chance for a better contract once those first contracts expire. Maybe not in the case of Bosa or other high draft choices, but a 4th rounder that could develop needs every teaching moment he can get and the NFLPA has watered them down this CBA. One cannot start if one doesn’t know the playbook, and gel with their team in situational play.

    Having them miss those chances to improve may protect them in the short term, but in the long term could hurt them.

    I would also argue that different juicy target to lower your lance upon might be the ‘get your degree’ windmill, if indeed you are interested in protecting them.

  15. You could take approach- of course the team could also reduce its offer to a player misses valuable coaching and training time

  16. If signing the letter of protection gives them everything the full contract does what would be gained by waiting for the contract? This is a solution without a problem.

  17. There is a thing called TRYOUTS.

    When more people want a position than is available they sometimes tryout.

    I had to tryout to make Little League, Babe Ruth, High School teams etc.

    Even the Cheerleaders have tryouts.

  18. The easiest thing to do would be to have the contracts ready and signed before the workouts begin.

  19. Some don’t particularly care for our (my) anti-establishment positions,

    Anti-establishment? No, that’s Trump supporters. We don’t care for your radical leftist, socialist, spread the wealth social justice warrior positions.

  20. its called an interview….maybe all applicants for all jobs should refuse to be interviewed until they are given a job.

  21. The easiest thing to do would be to modify the CBA so rookies and guys coming off injuries have time to get the extra work they need to be successful. Even if it’s just classrooms, weight rooms and film. The off season practice schedule is a joke. And to sign draft picks when they show to their nonnegotiable slotted contracts.

  22. How about the players agree to offset language and no signing bonus. Salary is already slotted, deal gets done today?

  23. From what I understand about rookie camp is that it’s more or less a walk through speed. It’s a lot like an orientation so when they have their first day of actual practice the coaching staff doesn’t have to spend the entire first day showing the new guys when and where to line up for each particular part of practice.

    Especially these days because the NFL only has 50% of the practices they use to have compared to when the league put the game first.

  24. I think that if the owners and players make getting the contract signed the top priority after the draft, there’s no reason it should take more than 5 days to sign all your picks. (Possible exception is the Browns, who have around 15 picks to sign every year. Give them an extra 2 days. 🙂 )

    The offset language issue affected Joey Bosa but has it ever affected anyone else? Again, I say just finish your draft, sign your UFAs, sign your draft picks and go to minicamp on the weekend. It should not be hard at all.

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