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Thursday, June 17, 2010
On the radar: Rookie contract issues

By Mike Sando

NFC On the Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

Some fans seem to get a little anxious this time of year as the weeks pass without top rookie draft choices signing contracts.

Sam Bradford
There's still plenty of time left for the Rams to sign rookie Sam Bradford.
My typical response: Relax. There's plenty of time. Top picks generally don't sign until right before camp.

Those feelings are warranted again this offseason. We're still six weeks away from training camps. No need to panic.

The uncertain labor situation does raise questions about whether teams and agents will have a harder time reaching agreement. Some teams have been more cautious this offseason and we could see that thinking affecting all negotiations, including those with rookie draft choices. Tom Condon, the agent for No. 1 overall choice Sam Bradford, offered some thoughts during a predraft chat with Forbes.com.
Forbes: How does the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement in March 2011 affect contracts for this year's draft class?

Condon: The expiration of the collective bargaining agreement gives us more flexibility with the contract structure because we have two more years to guarantee for skill, injury and cap. Additionally, we do not have to deal with the 30 percent rule restriction which applies to contracts under the current CBA. [Rookie contracts previously were restricted to a 30 percent annual salary increase.]

The flexibility Condon cites refers to mechanisms by which teams and agents can account for the most important aspect of any contract -- guaranteed money. Those mechanisms, limited last offseason as the NFL moved toward life without a CBA, are restored this offseason. Teams should be able to conduct business as they did previously.

The Rams in particular have budgeted for paying the No. 1 overall choice. They will want Bradford in camp. Bradford will want to be in camp. I would expect a deal to get done in time for Bradford to report on time or close to it. Meanwhile, teams continue to sign players drafted after the first two rounds.