Not every first-round contract will be easy to negotiate
Posted by Mike Florio on May 11, 2012, 8:16 PM EDT
With an unprecedented number of draft picks signing contracts early, thanks to a CBA that makes it more formulaic than ever to work out the details of deals, it would be easy to assume that the momentum will continue until all of the deals are done, perhaps by Memorial Day.
It would be easy, but it very well could be wrong.
Though there’s not all that much to negotiate when it comes to first-round contracts, one potential sticking point comes from the extent to which the money is fully guaranteed for all four years. In 2011, the first 20 picks received four-year, fully-guaranteed contracts. Three-year guarantees applied as of the 22nd pick, Colts lineman Anthony Castonzo.
At pick 21, the Browns and defensive lineman Phil Taylor worked out a compromise that would make his fourth-year income guaranteed or put him on the open market early in the league year, giving him an extended opportunity to make the money with a new team.
In 2012, picks in the range of 21 to 25 could take some extra time, as agents try to pull the four-year guarantee deeper into the round — or, at a minimum, to slide the formula that the Browns used when negotiating Taylor’s deal to lower selections.
Making things even more interesting is the fact that the Patriots, who have been known to drive a hard bargain with first-round picks (just ask Ben Watson), hold spot No. 21, for which they traded up used to select defensive end Chandler Jones. Also, the Browns devoted pick No. 22 to a quarterback, Brandon Weeden, who may be able to get the same deal one spot lower that Taylor got last year with the 21st pick, especially by pointing to the loose notion that quarterbacks deserve a better deal that non-quarterbacks taken at the same spot.
Then the question becomes whether the players taken with picks 23 (Riley Reiff of the Lions), 24 (David DeCastro of the Steelers), and 25 (Dont’a Hightower of the Patriots) will be able to yank the Taylor/Weeden formula deeper into the round.
Chances are the Patriots won’t go for it at No. 25, which would set the floor on the three-year guarantee. That leaves Reiff and DeCastro to possibly wait it out. Possibly past the Fourth of July.
Possibly into training camp.