Print and Go Back ESPN.com: St. Louis Rams [Print without images]

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Rams will have rookies signed soon

By Nick Wagoner

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams are the only team in the NFL not to sign any members of their draft class. That will change soon enough.

For those that have followed the team's approach to signing the rookies under coach Jeff Fisher, it should be no surprise the Rams will be the last team to strike deals with their 11 drafted rookies.

It's all part of the team's plan to educate the rookies before handing over what for many will be life-changing money.

"With the new rookie cap and everything it’s really not difficult to get the deals done," Fisher said Tuesday. "So we just felt like this time would be better served putting them in situations from an educational standpoint, financial planning, those kind of things. We’ve done a lot of that."

Indeed, since the emergence of the rookie salary cap, the contracts for draft picks are essentially slotted into certain price tags. No amount of hold outs or negotiations is ultimately going to change rules that were collectively bargained in 2011.

Where rookie holdouts used to be a summer staple, they are now a thing of the past. In looking around the NFL, most teams already have the majority of their draft classes under contract. Even first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney has already signed with the Houston Texans. Under the old CBA, it wouldn't be unusual to see top overall picks unsigned deep into July, even missing their share of training camp practices.

But with the new setup, the more pertinent question might be what's the rush?

Frankly, the Rams' approach to handling the rookie deals is both logical and intelligent. For all rookies entering the NFL, this is their first real occupation. Sure, they might have had jobs along the way but none that come with the payday of an NFL contract. (Insert joke about the payroll of your least favorite college football power here).

Taking it a step further, the vast majority of rookies don't have much experience with how to handle wealth. So the Rams set out to offer a variety of classes intended to further educate players before handing over lucrative signing bonuses.

Included in the education are sessions on financial planning, home ownership, investing and other tasks associated with every-day life. On Tuesday afternoon, former Rams tight end Ernie Conwell spoke to the rookies. Conwell is now a regional director for the NFLPA.

The Rams have even traditionally done a rookie week in which they offer the class an opportunity to see their new hometown by taking them out to eat at local restaurants and offering chances to mingle with other young professionals in town.

In the meantime, the rookies aren't left wanting for everything. They stay in a local hotel and are fed meals at the team facility.

It's all done with the idea of providing the smoothest transition possible for young players who are about to take on the difficult task of playing in the NFL. If the Rams can provide a better chance for them to do that, all the better.

Last year, the team announced the signing of its entire rookie class in one day, the final day of organized team activities. With OTAs halfway finished and scheduled to end next week, all indications from the Rams point to this year's draft picks signing their deals around the same time.

"We have got another meeting or two left to go and I would think we’ll get these things done here pretty quickly," Fisher said.