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Rookie signings front-and-center

Posted by Albert Breer  July 14, 2010 11:50 AM

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For along time, in order to circumvent the limits of the rookie salary pool, teams have split the bonus money for such high picks into a first-year signing bonus and a second-year option bonus.

The problem? Those second-year option bonuses now will be due on the first day of the 2011 league year. Or, if you're pessimistic about it, the first day of the lockout. So that money won't be paid on time, and now agents have to find a way to protect their clients so that cash, part of the contract's guarantee, isn't put into some kind of peril.

So agents have to find a way to insert "CYA" type of language into those deals and teams, of course, are going to be careful about adopting new language into deals in an environment that is, by definition, uncertain at this point.

Right now, the highest drafted rookie signed is Jets G Vladimir Ducasse. He was the 62nd pick, which is outside the group we're talking about. Conversely, a high-than-usual number of lower picks are signed, which is, in essence, a clearing of the decks for the more difficult negotiations.

Eventually, someone will be the first to sign -- it'll take some guts to be that guy or his agent -- and then others will examine the deal and then maybe a few more might sign, and then the problem could be buried under an avalanche of contracts.

But for now, it's a complicated situation for those drafted in the first round-and-a-half or so. Luckily for the Patriots, Cunningham and Spikes are just outside that group. Gronkowski and McCourty, on the other hand, aren't. So those negotiations will be interesting ones.

There's a little more detail in that section of the July 4 NFL Notes. You can check it out for yourself. And like I said, it's not like we're going to get to October or November and have a draft class full of Michael Crabtrees on our hands. But what is relevant, and worth watching here, is how long it take for the ice to break on these talks league-wide, because training camp time is so valuable to rookies.
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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