There is little doubt that the new collective bargaining agreement has made rookie signings easier -- 12 of the 32 first-round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft having signed contracts already is a testament to that. Only two of those were selected in the top 10, however, and Len Pasquarelli of FOXSports.com reported Sunday that "offset language" has become a sticking point when it comes to getting top draft picks under contract.
Offset language with regard to future guaranteed salaries provides relief to a club if a player is released before that season and signs with another team. Here's an example: If the Jacksonville Jaguars release a player who is guaranteed $1,000,000 in salary, and he signs with another club and earns $750,000 that season, the Jaguars' obligation to the player would be reduced to $250,000, assuming offset language has been written into the contract.
The $22.025 million contract that Cam Newton signed as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft does not contain any such language. According to Pasquarelli, the Carolina Panthers also did not include offset language in the $12.579 million contract that Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, the ninth overall pick, signed last month.
Agents for the top eight players picked will point to the Kuechly contract as precedent when negotiating their deals -- and most will succeed in keeping offset language out. After all, the Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins or Miami Dolphins are unlikely to seek offset language in the respective contracts for quarterbacks Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill.
The Cleveland Browns could seek offset language in Trent Richardson's deal, as Richardson plays a position -- running back -- with a shorter NFL life span. Off-field concerns, such as wide receiver Justin Blackmon's aggravated DUI arrest on Sunday, could prompt the Jacksonville Jaguars to push harder for offset language to be included in Blackmon's contract, which will likely guarantee him $2.9 million in base salary in the final year.
The offset issue might not be confined to the top eight picks, either. According to a source with knowledge of the contracts, St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, the 14th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, has offset language on the $1.233 full guaranteed base salary he's due in 2013. Most of New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara's $795,200 base salary in 2014 is offset, as well. Amukamara was the No. 19 pick in 2011 and was the last of the 254 players selected in the draft to sign a contract.