As Mike Reiss and Mike Rodak noted in their analysis of the deal reached between the Patriots and top draft choice Chandler Jones, the process of signing rookies has become exponentially less difficult under the new collective bargaining agreement (signed in July of 2011).
All deals signed by rookies are now for four years (although first-round picks can sign a contract with a team-option for a fifth year), and the overall value of the deal is largely fixed by the CBA. But one detail that remains up for potentially serious negotiations is the amount of guaranteed value included.
Jones’ deal (as reported by Reiss) includes fully guaranteed money for the first three seasons. In 2015, however, he is due a base salary of $1.5 million, of which only $752,284 (just north of 50 percent) is guaranteed.
Although our sample size under the new CBA is small, it’s already evident that it will be customary for picks selected in the latter third of the first round to not receive full guarantees.
Last year, the player drafted in Jones’ 21st slot, Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor, was the highest-drafted player to not receive a fully guaranteed four-year contract. In fact, he held out briefly from training camp while awaiting the consummation of his contract, as his agent and the team worked to straighten out the details.
The fact that seemingly no such quibble took place between the Patriots and Jones this year is a positive sign.
It also makes the deals yet to be signed by players drafted both ahead and behind Jones (which include Dont’a Hightower’s contract at No. 25) interesting to monitor.
Kendall Wright (No. 20) and Brandon Weeden (No. 22), who sandwiched Jones in the order, have not yet agreed to contracts.