In past years, the Patriots might not have even started negotiations with their draft picks at this point of the NFL calendar. The talks often started and/or extended close to the start of training camp in late July.
But the league's new rookie wage scale has altered the landscape, making it easier to finalize contracts. There isn't as much jockeying in negotiations. Leverage isn't as important. With draft picks now counting against the 90-man limit even when they are unsigned, there is more incentive for both sides to close the deals sooner rather than later.
It is with that background that the Patriots announced a contract agreement with first-round draft choice Chandler Jones on Wednesday.
Inking his contract now eliminates a potential distraction for Jones down the road when it comes to contract negotiations. It also provides Jones financial security in case of injury; however, the 2011 CBA changed how drafted rookies' contracts are handled in the regard.
Previously, draft choices were automatically offered a one-year tender at the minimum salary, and would sign an agreement with the team before participating in offseason activities and OTAs. Under the current CBA, draft choices are now immediately issued four-year tenders at minimum salaries, while still signing offseason participation agreements.
Even before signing his contract on Wednesday, Jones was participating in organized team activities. If he was injured, Jones would have had the option of accepting his four-year tender offer until the tenth week of the regular season.
Now, Jones has signed his "actual" rookie deal, the main benefit of which will be the guaranteed money, something not included in his previous four-year tender.