The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement has dramatically streamlined the process of getting draft picks under contract. As a result, they get signed sooner than ever before.
Previously an activity that unfolded on or after the Fourth of July — especially for the first-round picks — they now start agreeing to terms much more quickly.
As of Thursday, 223 of the 262 draft picks from the 2022 class have agreed to terms, per a source with knowledge of the transactions.
In round one, 30 of the 32 selections are under contract. The only unsigned first rounders are Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (20th overall) and Patriots guard Cole Strange (29th overall). Through the 32nd pick, every contract contains a full guarantee for all four years of the deal, the culmination of a decade-long effort to stretch the four-guarantees from the roughly the first 20 selections through the entirety of round one.
More than half of the second-round picks are unsigned. Only 14 have agreed to terms. Of the 41 picks in round three, 38 have signed.
In round four, the process has slowed because the Texans exceeded the slot for running back Dameon Pierce, the second selection in the round, by $25,000. The other 14 of the first 15 players taken in round four still haven’t signed. In all, 22 of the 38 fourth-round picks have agreed to terms.
For rounds five, six, and seven, every pick has signed a contract.
That leaves 39 not signed, with more than a month to go before camp opens. It is indeed a far cry from how it used to be, when rookie draft picks participated in the offseason program with nothing other than a letter of protection promising them the contract they would have gotten, in the event that they suffer a serious injury before signing.
The best protection continues to be a signed contract. Fortunately, most draft picks now have them. With the offseason programs ended, there’s no longer any real urgency to get the deals done. For the players, the process ideally will continue to evolve to the point where every player has his contract before they put on a helmet and enter the practice field for the first time.