Who’ll be the next rookie to sign?


Camp starts 10 days from now, and so the Patriots have that long to try and get their six unsigned rookies under contract and in uniform on time.

So how will this all shake out? We went over that last week, a little bit, and addressed how CB Devin McCourty and TE Rob Gronkowski could be affected by the hang up on option bonus language (although the deal D’Brickashaw Ferguson just signed has language to ensure a 2011 option bonus gets paid that might be copy-catted).

Taking all that into account, you have to figure the unsigned seventh-rounders (Zac Robinson and Brandon Deaderick Kade Weston) will get done soon, since those deals are largely formulaic. And that leaves the first four selections: McCourty, Gronkowski, OLB Jermaine Cunningham and LB Brandon Spikes.

Spikes and his agent Terry Watson opened talks with the team about a week ago and while nothing is imminent, the goal, Watson says, “is to get him in on time with a deal that meets where he’s drafted.” What else is helping them in that regard is that the player drafted right in front of Spikes, Jets G Vladimir Ducasse, is signed and his contract is a fairly standard one, with a $1.025 million bonus, a $410,000 playing-time incentive and standard rookie salary numbers ($320K, $405K, $490K, $575K).

Presumably, Cunningham’s negotiations won’t be overly complicated either, even if the Patriots and SportsStars (which represents Cunningham and Seattle’s Deion Branch) haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on everything.

That leaves Gronkowski and McCourty, both in that “option bonus” trouble area atop the draft. Since Gronkowski is repped by Drew Rosenhaus, who has both a great record in getting guys in on time and a great relationship with the Patriots, it seems as if the one to watch, when the clock’s really ticking down to camp, will be McCourty. And since the pace of first-round negotiations has been, to this point, glacial all over the league, answers on how that will turn out are tough to come by now.


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