With training camp underway there are three rookies who remain unsigned. The unsigned rookies are Jonathan Cooper (7th pick, Arizona), Dee Milliner (9th pick, New York Jets), and Chance Warmack (10th pick, Tennessee). Reports seem to indicate that none are close to signing with their respective teams. With the NFL essentially slotting salaries for their picks, not to mention the fact that the first six picks are under contract, it makes the fact that these teams seem to be so far away from signing these players puzzling.
The League fought back this year on the offset provisions and seemed to win more often than not. As was tradition neither the Lions nor Rams fought the issue, but many others did and won. The Miami Dolphins contract model used with QB Ryan Tannehill became a compromise model for a number of NFL franchises and their draftees. The Dolphins model did not include the no offset provision but improved the cash flows of the contract by paying all but the minimum salary for the year during training camp in the form of a roster bonus.
This is the model that seems to have been used(details on the contract are not yet available) by Eric Fisher, the number 1 pick in the draft, and was clearly used by picks 3,4, and 6. Last year the first 9 picks in the draft received full guarantees with no offset language. This year the Jaguars have been the only team in the top 8, not including the Lions and Rams who do not make it an issue, to sign on the players terms.
Of the three picks Cooper is the only one that could logically be fighting over offset language. Last year the 7th pick received a contract with no offset language and he can point to the 5th and 8th picks this year also having no offsets. While those teams are the Lions and Rams its at least still a point to be made. Cooper’s agent, Todd France, fought hard for this last year for Justin Blackmon and won the battle with the Jaguars. Blackmon’s contract did not contain a full signing bonus, but that was due to off the field issues and not due to the offset language. Blackmon was not signed until August 7th.
Milliner is one I discussed here as soon as the draft ended. He is represented by the same people who represented Tannehill last season so one would think they would be open to the same structure being used by the other top draft selections. With so many teams using the structure the worry of it somehow being used against them in recruiting should be gone. It is hard to understand how the two sides here can supposedly be so far apart considering that the offset fight has been so much more of a compromise than in the past.
I have to think that the cash flow timing is the issue here and this may be on the Jets more than Milliner. The Jets may feel that Tannehill, as a QB, was a premier player and could justify the offseason bonus money. However Milliner is not a premier player and they should not compromise on all cash coming during the season. If that is the line of thinking it may be complicated by Geno Smith, the Jets second round draft pick, receiving workout bonus money in his contract. I guess it is possible that Milliner prefers a reporting bonus to a workout bonus and the Jets prefer a workout bonus, but I have a feeling its just the idea of offseason money. DJ Hayden of the Raiders is the only draft pick selected beyond number 6 with yearly offseason bonus money. Tannehill signed on July 29 so maybe a resolution is imminent.
Warmack being unsigned is the hardest of all to imagine. Last year the 10th pick in the draft received offset language. So did the 11th. None of those players received offseason bonus money. This year more players are signing contracts with offset language. There really should be no hold up. Unless Tennessee is refusing to guarantee 4 years of salary, which is highly unlikely, this is the one contract where the lack of a signing may be more on the player than the team.