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It’s been 12 years since the Collective Bargaining Agreement between NFL players and management created a rookie wage scale for draft picks that significantly decreased the monstrous deals given to high first-round picks.
It also resulted in contracts being executed quicker with holdouts avoided. Through the years, it has gotten to the point where every No. 1 choice has all four years fully guaranteed.
From the third round on, the only guaranteed money is in the signing bonus. The second round? That’s another matter entirely. There are varying levels of guaranteed base salaries in that round, which delays signings because it takes confident agents to be the first ones to agree to contracts. Agents do communicate with each other as the process progresses and that creates delays.
That comes amid the realities of the first two rounds where the difference in total value decreases by $200,000 to $300,000 in the latter stages of the first round, but then drops from the final choice of the first round to the first pick in the second round. Last year, the decrease was more than $2 million.
As this month comes to a close, there are only 29 unsigned draft choices in the league with seven in the first round and 14 in the second round. Included in that latter group is Cardinals edge rusher B.J. Ojulari, the 10th pick in the second round and the team’s only unsigned draft choice.
This is not unusual. As of July 1 in 2022, there were also 14 unsigned second-round picks although all 32 No. 1 choices were signed.
Prior to this year, virtually all second-rounders had guaranteed base salaries in the first two years with a sprinkle of partial third-year guarantees or offseason workout bonuses in the final two years.
That’s the way it started out this year when the final seven picks in the second round all signed in May and received those two years guaranteed, while two snared workout bonuses in the final two.
On June 6, there was upheaval when Seahawks linebacker Derick Hall, the sixth pick in the round, signed a contract negotiated by Harold Lewis with the first three years totally guaranteed plus a partial guarantee of $100,000 in the fourth year.
Unfortunately, the agents for the seventh choice, Falcons guard Matthew Bergeron, didn’t know about Hall’s deal because it was signed the same day and Bergeron got a mere $10,000 in the fourth year, but at least it did have the first three years guaranteed. The next player in the round, Panthers wide receiver Jonathan Mingo, has no guaranteed money in the fourth year, but does have an offseason workout bonus of $812,719, which, of course, can only be earned if he’s still with the team.
After Hall signed, three players selected before him received escalated fourth-year guarantees: Lions tight end Sam LaPorta $408,000 plus a $92,000 offseason workout bonus; Raiders tight end Michael Mayer $303,100 and Rams guard Steve Avila $201,173.
Ojulari was selected two slots after Mingo and the ninth pick, Saints defensive end Isaiah Foskey, is also unsigned, so the waiting game continues.
Currently, only one of the second-round choices from nine to 20 has signed, Pittsburgh defensive tackle Keeanu Benton, and he was guaranteed the first two years of salary plus a partial guarantee of $113,332 in 2025.
Four choices from 22 to 25 signed in June and none received guarantees after 2024 although three have offseason workout bonuses in 2025 and 2026.
Meanwhile, the first two picks in the second round are also unsigned: Steelers linebacker Joey Porter Jr. and Titans quarterback Will Levis.
Porter is in an unusual situation because the Dolphins forfeited a first-round choice leaving only 31 picks in the round.
Surely, Porter’s agents are arguing that being the 32nd overall choice should result in the escalation of his slotted contract, but the system doesn’t account for that. There are those in the agent community that expect Porter and Levis to potentially receive full guarantees for all four years of their contracts.
The contract for this year’s final pick in the first round, Chiefs defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah, totaled $11.8 million, while LaPorta’s deal has a total value of $9.47 million.
There are 15 teams that have all their draft choices signed: Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Las Vegas, L.A. Chargers, Minnesota, N.Y. Giants and San Francisco.
Most teams, like the Cardinals, will have veterans report for training camp on July 25 although teams in the Hall of Fame Game (Cleveland and the N.Y. Jets) or the Thursday night regular-season opener (Kansas City and Detroit) will report earlier. However, teams can elect to have rookies, along with quarterbacks and players coming back from injury, report earlier.
Following are the unsigned draft choices along with the reporting date for rookies. The number after each name is the round/overall selection.
Cardinals: OLB B.J. Ojulari, 2/41 (July 25)
Carolina: QB Bryce Young, 1/1 (July 22)
Detroit: RB Jahmyr Gibbs, 1/12; S Brian Branch, 2/45 (July 19)
Green Bay: TE Luke Musgrave, 2/41; WR Jayden Reed, 2/50 (July 21)
Houston: QB C.J. Stroud, 1/2 (July 25)
Indianapolis: QB Anthony Richardson, 1/4; CB Julius Brents, 2/44; T Blake Freeland, 4/106 (July 25)
L.A. Rams: LB Byron Young, 3/77; DT Kobie Turner, 3/89; CB Tre’Vius Tomlinson, 6/182; DE Ochaun Mathis, 6/189; RB Zach Evans, 6/215 (July 25)
Miami: CB Cam Smith, 2/51 (July 18)
New England: CB Christian Gonzalez, 1/17; DT Keion White, 2/46 (July 21)
New Orleans: DE Isaiah Foskey, 2/40 (July 18)
N.Y. Jets: DE Will McDonald IV, 1/15; C Joe Tippmann, 2/43 (July 19)
Philadelphia: CB Kelee Ringo, 4/105 (July 25)
Pittsburgh: LB Joey Porter Jr., 2/32 (July 26)
Seattle: CB Devon Witherspoon, 1/5; RB Zach Charbonnet, 2/52 (July 25)
Tampa Bay: G Cody Mauch, 2/48 (July 24)
Tennessee: QB Will Levis, 2/33 (July 22)
Washington: CB Emmanuel Forbes, 1/16; S Quan Martin, 2/47 (July 21)
Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions on Twitter @hbalzer721 or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
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