A basic truth of the NFL: rookies who hold out are counter productive in helping their teams prepare for the season.
With the potential for a rookie wage scale in the near future -- depending on the next CBA -- things could be much different in years to come. But for now it's still the cat-and-mouse game.
The pace of first-round signings this year has been typically slow, but they've got to speed up -- and fast. Training camps are opening all around the NFL, and the charade is over. It's time to take a deal.
With picks No. 8 (Rolando McClain of Oakland), No. 24 (Dez Bryant of Dallas) and No. 27 (Devin McCourty of New England) all signed, there really is no excuse for the players surrounding them in the draft. Because of the first three signings, at least six players could get the "right" deal done, and they need to sign today -- like now, pronto! They need get to work already because the deals right next to them are in the books, and the deals from last year at the same spots are also points of reference.
Remember when defensive end Derrick Harvey, the No. 8 overall pick of the Jaguars in 2008, held out and didn't make any more money than he would have if he had got in on time? Jacksonville is still waiting for him to deliver after signing him to a $23.8 million deal over five years with $17 million guaranteed.
The market has also been set down below for first rounders Bryan Bulaga of the Packers (No. 23) and Tim Tebow of the Broncos (No. 25) now that Bryant's deal is done at No. 24. And the reality needs to set in for Bulaga and Tebow that it's time to sign a deal. Tebow will want the quarterback bonus, and when you look at last year and what the Buccaneers gave Josh Freeman at No. 17, as compared to what Larry English got at No. 16, a case could be made that a quarterback bonus does exist. But any lost time by Tebow, who is not NFL ready, is a mistake and tarnishes his squeaky clean image.
Bulaga has the Bryant deal right below him and the deal for Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher at his spot last year to work off. Oher got a bigger deal than Bryant overall (five years for #13.8 million), but Bryant got more guaranteed money. The right deal for Bulaga is five years worth about $13 million with $8.5 million guaranteed. Bulaga should see close to $3 million in the first year in bonuses and salaries.
The McCourty deal at No. 27 should also lock down Cardinals defensive tackle Dan Williams (No. 26) and Dolphins defensive tackle Jared Odrick (No. 28). McCourty got a five-year deal worth $10 million with $7.8 million guaranteed, which is slighlty less than the deal that Colts running back Donald Brown signed last year as the No. 27 pick ($11.8 million for five years but only $6.8 million guaranteed).
Deals for Williams and Odrick should be easy to figure out. Williams has the McCourty deal plus Clay Matthews' deal at his spot last year as a reference. Williams should get a five-year deal worth $11 million, with close to $8 million guaranteed and incentives worth a possible $3 million and an option bonus next year that is in the neighborhood of $3.5 million. Odrick, just one spot down from McCourty, has changed agents, but that shouldn't matter with the market set for a non-quarterback at the spot by last year's deal to Eric Wood of the Bills and the McCourty deal this year. Odrick should expect a five-year deal worth just under $10 million with about $7.2 million guaranteed and incentives worth a possible $3 million.
Odrick also has to deal with the reality that the Dolphins just signed veteran Charles Grant, which means they will be prepared to play without him if they have to.
I know you're reading this, and the money can appear staggering. And I can tell you from talking to fans every day on my Sirius radio show that they are sick and tired of the money rookies make; they are even more frustrated by holdouts from guys who need to prove they can play.
As soon as the above-mentioned first rounders get their contracts resolved, the sooner the rest of them will fall in line. I have done my fair share of rookie contracts in my past front-office dealings, and while I might be off by a little in the above projections, things are so easy to predict now with information from the first few signings.
All of the first-round players should be in camp by the end of next week -- no excuses.