Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rookie signings brisk in '12, but 14 first rounders unsigned

By Nate Davis, USA TODAY

July 17, 2012

NFL training camps begin throwing open their doors next week, but there's still some business to be taken care of.

Of the 32 2012 first-round draft picks, 14 remain unsigned. That group includes No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts, No. 2 choice Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins, and the six other players taken in the top quartile of Round 1.

RGIII is barred by the collective bargaining agreement from attending the Redskins' rookie camp this week unless he inks a deal.

Still, the pace of draft signings this offseason has been brisk under the new CBA, which essentially leads to salary slotting. The incoming players atop the draft don't cash in nearly as well -- Cam Newton, No. 1 in 2011, signed a four-year, $22 million deal one year after Sam Bradford received a six-year, $78 million windfall -- but the lack of wiggle room in negotiations has gotten the newcomers into their playbooks much faster.

In the even bigger picture, 217 of this year's 253 draftees had signed by the end of June. In the previous seven years, by comparison, 377 players signed by June 30, an average of 63 annually (discounting the 2011 lockout).

As far as first rounders:

• By June 20, 18 had signed this year
• After the new CBA was agreed to, ending last year's lockout July 25, all 32 signed between July 27 and Aug. 4
• In 2010, the last offseason under the previous CBA, none signed before July 22
• In 2009, only top pick Matthew Stafford (who was able to negotiate prior to the draft) and No. 5 choice Mark Sanchezwere signed prior to July 25; Michael Crabtree held out until October

Neil Cornrich, though he represents Detroit Lions rookie Riley Reiff (one of this year's unsigned first rounders), says the new CBA has created a less acrimonious atmosphere between agents, their players and teams.

"The process has clearly been smoother. Last year was smooth, and this year the waters have calmed even more," Cornrich says.

"I think it's good for the players and good for the teams to have the deal done earlier. It grows their relationship rather than having to beat each other up."

And optimism seems to remain high that Luck, Griffin III, Reiff and their peers will all arrive in camp on time.

2012 Round 1 rookies still without contracts:
• 1. Andrew Luck, Colts
• 2. Robert Griffin III, Redskins
• 3. Trent Richardson, Browns
• 4. Matt Kalil, Vikings
• 5. Justin Blackmon, Jaguars
• 6. Morris Claiborne, Cowboys
• 7. Mark Barron, Buccaneers
• 8. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
• 11. Dontari Poe, Chiefs
• 20. Kendall Wright, Titans
• 22. Brandon Weeden, Browns
• 23. Riley Reiff, Lions
• 24. David DeCastro, Steelers

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