The No. 1 contract

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
DANA POINT, Calif. -- A pair of Detroit-area writers caught up with Lions president Tom Lewand a few hours ago here at the NFL owners' meeting. Lewand offered this nugget: The team has initiated preliminary contract negotiations with the agents for several candidates to be the No. 1 overall pick in next month's draft.

Here are the reports from Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press and Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com. Here's the key quote:

"We have to have robust dialogue with the agents representing the players that we're interested in. We've started that process. We have to have that. We've made it very clear to all of them that we have to have that as this month draws to a close and we get into April."

This is pretty standard fare for most teams that have the first pick of the draft. It doesn't mean an agreement is imminent; in fact, it's unlikely the Lions have even decided who they want to draft. But one of the advantages of having the first pick is the ability to find out what type of deal agents are looking for prior to selection.

True, NFL rookie contracts are slotted based on draft position, but the No. 1 pick often sets the market for the rest of the draft. That gives agents a bit more leeway to make demands because the only standard available is what the No. 1 overall pick received the year before.

There are also other possible complications. Quarterbacks typically receive more money than players of other positions. How much more? That's what the Lions are finding out from Tom Condon, the agent for Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford. Condon's answer will at least play a role in the Lions' final decision.

The larger questions are how many players have been approached and who they are. The Lions have hosted five players on visits to their practice facility, including: Stafford, Baylor offensive lineman Jason Smith, Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji and Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew. It's safe to assume at least the first three players on that list have been approached.

The one prominent name missing from that list is Virginia offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, who has been projected as high as the No. 2 overall pick. There's no way to know for sure why Monroe has been omitted: Do the Lions simply prefer Smith over him? Or are they trying to keep their true interest hidden?

Because they have the top pick, you wouldn't think the Lions would have to hide any draft secrets. But that information could prove crucial if they want to trade out of the slot.

Say the Lions ultimately want to draft Monroe and know he'll be available lower in the first round. The way to garner maximum value in that scenario is for other teams to believe there is a real possibility they would be happy to pick another player at No. 1 overall. Theoretically, that play-action would inject urgency into a team interested in trading up for, say, Stafford.

This is just one example of the mind-game that is the NFL draft. Thanks for joining us.