Most of the 2021 draft picks have signed their rookie contracts, and many contracts were signed fairly quickly after the seventh round ended. In the first round, 75 percent of the selections have agreed to terms.
That said, eighty percent of the first-round quarterbacks have not signed.
Bears quarterback Justin Fields, the 11th overall pick in the draft, previously did his deal. Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (No. 1), Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (No. 2), 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (No. 3), and Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (No. 15) have not agreed to terms.
It’s not a cause for concern, especially since all of the first-round rookie quarterback participated in offseason workouts without having their contracts signed. As July unfolds, however, it will be important to keep ears and eyes open for any potential snags.
The 2011 CBA dramatically streamlined the process of negotiating rookie deals by removing most of the things about which player and team can haggle. At the top of the draft, however, several negotiating points remain. For example, whether and to what extent the fully-guaranteed payments for the first four years will be subject to offset if the player is released sometimes becomes an issue. (Historically, the Jaguars have no insisted on offset language.) Also, cash flow becomes an important consideration; it’s one thing to earn money — it’s quite another thing to get the money. Other fights have emerged regarding the fine print that would void future guarantees. In 2018, a lengthy holdout by Bears first-round linebacker Roquan Smith was fueled by that very issue.
This year, the top three quarterbacks are represented by different agencies, which adds another wrinkle to the process. Each firm will want to be able to tout the deal it did in comparison to the other two. Also, given the picks invested in Lance, his agents at CAA could drive an even harder bargain, reasoning that they won’t want him to miss a single minute of meetings and practices as they get him ready to take over inevitably for Jimmy Garoppolo.
Although less frequent than they used to be, holdouts still happen. It’s possible that one or more will happen this year. And with the first three picks in the draft all quarterbacks for the first time since the new rookie compensation system was put in place, it makes sense to watch closely how those negotiations unfold.