NFL rookies will be descending upon Aurora, Ohio this week for the annual rookie symposium, which gets underway Sunday with rookies from the NFC. In addition to bonding with their fellow rookies, and hearing speeches from former NFL players who have been in their shoes, the players will learn lessons about social responsibility, the pitfalls of fame, and money management.
More than any rookie class that has come before them, this year's crop of first-year players have already seen large checks deposited into their bank accounts.
As of Sunday, 217 of the 253 players (85.7 percent) selected in the 2012 NFL Draft already have signed their rookie contract. Included among that list are the entire draft classes of the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. Another nine teams have just one player left to sign, while eight are two unsigned picks away from completing that offseason task.
The only team to have not signed a draft choice is the New Orleans Saints, who have been a bit busy negotiating Drew Brees' contract extension, and dealing with the fallout of suspensions from their "bounty" program.
A round-by-round look at the unsigned picks reflects the Saints' lack of action on rookie signings. The only unsigned players in the fourth, sixth and seventh rounds all are Saints' draft choices Nick Toon (fourth round, No. 122 overall), Andrew Tiller (sixth round, No. 179 overall) and Marcel Jones (seventh round, No. 234 overall). Saints cornerback Corey White (No. 162 overall) is joined by Oakland Raiders wide receiver Juron Criner as the two unsigned draft choices from the fifth round.
There are 14 unsigned picks from the third round, a large number considering that signing bonuses are slotted. Teams and agents are haggling over increased guarantee amounts and larger base salaries in "Years Two through Four" of the contract. According to a source with access to rookie contract data, of the 18 third-round picks to sign contracts, 15 are due to receive larger base salary or workout bonuses in a future year of the contract.
Surprisingly, players in Round Two have been much easier to sign. Twenty-eight of the 31 second-round picks are under contract, with Indianapolis Colts tight end Colby Fleener, St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins and Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler the lone unsigned second-rounders. As we noted earlier this month, from 2006-10, the duration of the previous collective bargaining agreement, one only second-round pick (LeSean McCoy) had signed a contract before July 1.
As is the case with Round Three, there are 14 unsigned picks from the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. That list includes the top-eight picks in the draft who, along with No. 11 overall pick Dontari Poe, might be delayed in signing as the two sides negotiate offsets in what will be fully guaranteed contracts. The other pocket of unsigned first-round picks can be found in the 20-25 range, where the main holdup is how much of the contract will be fully guaranteed.
Players selected in the top half of the first round will have their entire rookie contract fully guaranteed, while those selected in the second half of the first round have between 80 percent to just over 90 percent of their deals guaranteed. Right now, players selected in the 17-21 range have around 91 percent of their rookie contracts fully guaranteed. Players selected in the 26-32 range are sitting between 80.5 percent and 81.25 percent, which leaves some room for negotiation for those players in between. Agents for players selected in the 22-25 range last year maxed out at just over 82 percent, but that won't keep this year's agents trying to obtain as close to the 90 percent guarantee as possible, which means those signings could go down to the wire.