Rookie Pay Scale Simplifies Negotiations for NFL Selections
The NFL's year old rookie salary system was basically designed to limit the amount of guaranteed money in the contracts of players chosen early in the draft. When the new system went into effect last summer, it became apparent that it was accomplishing that goal. The top draft picks signed contracts worth significantly less than the deals of top rookies in previous years.
The system also aimed to streamline contract negotiations between rookies and their NFL teams, making those deals far less complicated and negotiations simpler. We're not sure yet if that will happen, but last month's draft has been quickly followed by several signings, which would suggest that rookie contract negotiations are less complicated.
With the current system, the timetable for signing rookies has accelerated. This year, many teams have signed their rookies in time for May minicamps.
As of May 14, 124 players taken in this year's NFL draft had signed deals with their teams. Prior to the current rookie pay system going into effect last July, the number of draft picks who signed each year by the end of May was usually less than 15. In 2010, 13 draft picks signed contracts in May. "That's one of the true advantages right there," New York Giants Coach Tom Coughlin said at a news conference during the Giants' rookie minicamp last weekend.
Sports agent Bruce Tollner negotiated a four-year, almost $8.3 million deal with the Chicago Bears for defensive end Shea McClellin, a first round selection (19th overall). Tollner feels this is indicative of the new timetable for completing rookie deals. "It makes too much sense for a lot of teams, when you know where it will be, just to get it done," Tollner said.
Creative negotiations, Tollner said, now will come during talks for a player's subsequent NFL contracts.
This year, there is no increase in the overall salary cap. Thus, rookie contracts are expected to be comparable to deals signed last year.
The top eight selections, including Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, and 13 of the top 14 picks remained unsigned as of May 17th. So the trend toward earlier signings has not caught up to the draft's premier rookies.
With draftees being signed so quickly now, it could be a good thing for NFL fans. They could get to see the rookies as soon as spring minicamps, instead of having to wait until training camps start in July.