Decks clear for first-, second-rounders


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With yesterday’s news that the Patriots signed seventh-round picks Zac Robinson and Kade Weston to four-year deals, the decks have now been cleared for the more difficult negotiations with the higher level rookies.

New England now has eight draft picks signed, but its four highest picks are still in search of contract … 27th overall pick Devin McCourty, 42nd pick Rob Gronkowski, 53rd pick Jermaine Cunningham and 62nd pick Brandon Spikes.

Cunningham’s and Spikes’ deals should be easier to do than Gronkowski’s or McCourty’s because of the option-bonus issue, which affects first-round and high second-round picks.

One potential breakthrough came earlier this week, when the Bucs inked DT Brian Price, who, as the 35th pick, falls into that group. But the St. Petersburg Times reports that the four-year, $5.35 million deal he signed includes a hefty $2.72 million signing bonus, which might have mitigated the problem. Somehow, Tampa Bay will need to fit that into their rookie pool, and it’ll be interesting to see how that works out.

The Patriots’ rookie reporting date is Sunday, but Thursday, the official start of camp, is the one to watch with the higher picks.

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