One of the issues that has come up regarding Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who is looking for a new contract after outperforming his rookie deal, is the length of Wilfork's first contract.
The 21st overall pick in the 2004 draft, Wilfork signed a six-year deal with the Patriots. So did tight end Benjamin Watson, who was taken with the final pick of the first-round in 2004.
Both players are entering the last year of their rookie deals. Six years is an eternity in the NFL. Under the current rules, the Patriots wouldn't have been able to sign Wilfork or Watson to six-year deals.
The rules state that only the top 16 picks in the first-round can sign six-year deals. Those in the bottom half of the round can only sign deals with a maximum length of five seasons.
Any player picked after the first round can't sign a deal longer than four seasons.
The Patriots' top pick in the 2009 draft was safety Patrick Chung, taken with the second pick of the second round (No. 34) overall.
Chung and fellow second-rounders nose tackle Ron Brace, cornerback Darius Butler, and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer all are only eligible to sign deals with a maximum length of four years.