First-round picks are signing their rookie deals at a much quicker pace than they did last year. While the slot system implemented in 2011 has removed much of the difficulty in teams getting their top draftees signed, players are gaining some noticeable ground this year.
Twenty-six of this year’s first-round picks have signed their four-year rookie deals, which feature fifth-year options. Charles Cross (No. 9 overall, Seahawks), Kyle Hamilton (No. 14, Ravens), Zion Johnson (No. 17, Chargers), Kenny Pickett (No. 20, Steelers), Tyler Linderbaum (No. 25, Ravens) and Cole Strange (No. 29, Patriots) are the only remaining unsigned first-rounders.
At this point last year, only seven first-rounders had signed. In 2020, an offseason that featured no in-person workouts, only two had inked their rookie pacts, via CBS Sports’ Joel Corry. While most of the top 2022 draftees are moving forward with their teams’ offseason programs after having received fully guaranteed contracts, second-rounders are suddenly in the spotlight.
Only eight second-rounders have signed, with only 14 third-round picks doing so. Language in third-rounders’ deals annually causes delays, but the second-round slowdown is new. Guarantee pushes are responsible, and the Texans are complicating other teams’ blueprints. Texans safety Jalen Pitre, the 37th overall pick, received three years fully guaranteed on his slot deal ($8.95MM). John Metchie, Houston’s No. 44 overall choice, received two years fully guaranteed and 56% of his third year guaranteed, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe notes. That creates a murky range for agents representing mid-second-round picks.
Last year’s second round only featured seven players receive a partial guarantee of their Year 3 salary, Volin adds, illustrating the gains the NFLPA has made here. In 2011, only 21 first-rounders received fully guaranteed deals. Last year, 28 did. With Vikings safety Lewis Cine seeing his four-year, $11.5MM fully guaranteed, it ensured all 32 Round 1 choices would have their money locked in. When Patriots wideout Ras-I Dowling kicked off the 2011 second round, he secured only two fully guaranteed years, Volin notes. Some players in that year’s second round received just one fully guaranteed year. This year, Round 2’s final selection — Broncos edge rusher Nik Bonitto — scored two years fully guaranteed.