Well, at least some progress is being made in the labor negotiations. There is still the division of $9 billion to figure out. But in the meantime, the NFL and NFLPA has agreed that a much smaller chunk of that $9 billion than in past years will go to rookies.
Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports writes, “According to two sources familiar with the negotiations, the league and the union have reached a basic compromise on a rookie wage scale that will replace the current rookie salary cap. The owners backed off the idea of requiring first-round picks to sign five-year deals, instead limiting the contracts to four years before a player could become a free agent. The agreement is also expected to include a stipulation limiting the amount of guaranteed money and signing bonus offered to draft picks.”
The agreement also says that players drafted after the first round can become free agents after three years, though teams can be restricted tags (i.e. RFA tender) after three years. That’s essentially the same arrangement as before.
But the focus is on the first-rounders. Previously, players picked 1-16 could sign six-year deals; players picked 17-32 could sign for five years. But a shorter four-year deal allows good players to reach free agency faster. That’s key when you’re talking about limiting those players’ salaries.
It is not yet known just how limited those salaries will be. Cole reports that the owners’ initial offer was for the top overall pick to receive a five-year deal worth $19 million, with $6 million guaranteed. That would be about a $44 million drop from what Sam Bradford received last year.
A rookie wage scale has significant impact on the value of draft picks. No longer will holding a top five pick be a curse. Don’t be surprised if teams that normally horde late-round picks (say, the Patriots, for example) suddenly discover a newfound interest for trading up in the draft.
As for what this means for the ongoing labor negotiations....it's progress, obviously. But it's expected progress. The concept of a rookie wage scale is one area where the NFL and NFLPA have been on the same general page all along.
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