Alijah Vera-Tucker

Jets Sign First-Round OL Alijah Vera-Tucker

Jets fans are still waiting for their team to ink second-overall pick Zach Wilson to his rookie contract, but the organization did manage to sign their other first-round pick today. The team announced that they’ve signed first-round guard Alijah Vera-Tucker.

The USC product was selected with the 14th pick during this past year’s draft. The offensive lineman’s rookie contract is worth a fully guaranteed $15.88MM, including an $8.9MM signing bonus.

A darling of scouts across the league, Vera-Tucker was lauded for his versatility and hard-nosed playing style during his time at USC. AVT was already considered a top offensive guard prospect heading into the 2020 season, but he added even more intrigue following a successful transition to tackle. After earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2019, he made a jump to the first team in 2020. He also earned the Morris Trophy this past season, awarded to the best OL/DL in the Pac 12 (as voted by players).

Vera-Tucker lacks elite athleticism, which means his future will probably be on the interior. Indeed, the rookie is currently projected to start at left guard for the Jets.

Following the signing, the Jets have only a pair of rookies who remain unsigned: Wilson and second-round wideout Elijah Moore.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Unsigned First-Round Rookies

After the Falcons inked first-round tight end Kyle Pitts to his rookie deal earlier today, there are eight first-round rookies who remain unsigned:

1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB (Clemson)
2) New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB (BYU)
3) San Francisco 49ers (from Texans via Dolphins): Trey Lance, QB (North Dakota State)
13) Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT (Northwestern)
14) New York Jets (from Vikings): Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL (USC)
15) New England Patriots: Mac Jones, QB (Alabama)
25) Jacksonville Jaguars (from Rams): Travis Etienne, RB (Clemson)
26) Cleveland Browns: Greg Newsome II, CB (Northwestern)

This isn’t a huge cause for concern, as first-round contracts are pretty standard and by-the-book. However, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler has an explanation for why at least a handful of these players still haven’t put pen to paper. According to the reporter (via Twitter), there are still some “wrinkles to work out” for the notable quarterback deals. This sentiment would presumably apply to each of the top-three picks, and it could even be referring to Patriots first-round quarterback Mac Jones.

There’s a number of minor details that agents could be pushing for, including signing bonus terms or any other contract language that goes beyond the standard, boilerplate options. On the other side, teams could be pushing for some type of offset language, meaning the organization would get some financial flexibility if the player for some reason doesn’t finish their rookie contract with the team.

When it comes to the quarterbacks, most of the agents are probably waiting to see how Lawrence’s deal unfolds in Jacksonville. Alternatively, if Bill Belichick and the Patriots (somehow) give in to any demands from Jones camp, you can bet the top-three QBs would argue for similar benefits. While there are a number of reasons why the other, non-QB players have yet to sign, one could guess that the two offensive lineman may be pushing for similar terms (Vera-Tucker could also simply be waiting for his teammate to sign their contract). Etienne is in a unique position as one of only two first-round running backs (or, like Vera-Tucker, he could be waiting for his teammate), while Newsome recently fired his agent.

The teams and the players will want the contracts settled prior to training camp in late-July, but that still leaves a few weeks for negotiating.

Ten First-Round Picks Remain Unsigned

This year, NFL teams have been quick to tackle their rookie paperwork. Still, there are a decent number of unsigned draft picks remaining, including ten of this year’s first-rounders: 

In a sense, this is a sign that things are back to normal in football following the pandemic. For example, by June 12th of 2019, 22 first-round picks had put pen to paper, with 222 rookies inked on the whole. However, around this time last year, there were just two first-round picks officially in the fold – Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Panthers defensive lineman Derrick Brown.

Offset language and similar minutia could be holding these ten deals up, but there’s no reason to panic. In all likelihood, these rookie contracts will be squared away before the start of training camp this summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Trade No. 14 Pick To Jets; Jets Take Alijah Vera-Tucker

It’s shaping up to be a big night for the Jets. After selecting BYU quarterback Zach Wilson No. 2 overall, the Jets have traded back up to snag the Vikings’ No. 14 overall pick. In the process, they’ve leapfrogged Bill Belichick and the Patriots, who were unable to move up from No. 15.

With the 14th pick, the Jets selected USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. The choice wasn’t met with much of a reaction from the crowd in Cleveland, but GM Joe Douglas was practically doing cartwheels. A darling of scouts across the league, Vera-Tucker has been lauded for his versatility and hard-nosed playing style.

AVT was already considered a top offensive guard prospect heading into the 2020 season, but he added even more intrigue following a successful transition to tackle. After earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2019, he made a jump to the first team in 2020. He also earned the Morris Trophy this past season, awarded to the best OL/DL in the Pac 12 (as voted by players).

Vera-Tucker lacks elite athleticism, which means his future will probably be on the interior. Either way, his high-IQ play style and versatility should make him a contributor for the Jets right off the bat.

Here’s the full breakdown of the deal that brought Vera-Tucker to the east coast:

Vikings Receive

  • Pick No. 23
  • Pick No. 66
  • Pick No. 86

Jets Receive

  • Pick No. 14
  • Pick No. 143

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Trade Rumors: Bears, Falcons, Bengals

Here’s a few of the latest draft rumors, with a focus on teams that could be moving up or down the board in the first round:

  • The Bears, who hold the No. 20 overall pick, have been rumored as a team that could be climbing up the draft board to grab a QB, but as Albert Breer of SI.com writes, they haven’t been particularly active in trade discussions just yet. A lot can happen in a week, and Breer says rival clubs do expect Chicago to at least consider a bold trade to land a top passer. On the other hand, such a deal will be very expensive in terms of draft capital, and Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune hears from some sources that GM Ryan Pace might try to protect his draft assets to fill his club’s multiple needs. Still, Pace’s job and HC Matt Nagy‘s job are very much in jeopardy, and unless the duo is particularly high on a second-tier QB like Florida’s Kyle Trask, expect the team to exhaust all possible avenues for a trade up.
  • The Falcons may be open to all options when it comes to their No. 4 overall pick, but Breer is getting the sense that Atlanta is perfectly content to stay right where it is. Whether the Falcons take a QB with that pick or the top non-QB prospect in the draft remains an open question, but they have put a very high price on their selection, and it sounds like they will need to be overwhelmed by a trade offer to move it.
  • The buzz around the Bengals has pointed towards the team keeping its No. 5 overall pick and selecting LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase. Director of player personnel Duke Tobin said that he has engaged in talks with teams looking to move up to No. 5, but he wants to stay put and select a premier talent (Twitter link via Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com).
  • Other teams are expecting the Dolphins to keep the No. 6 selection, but GM Chris Grier says that he will continue listening to trade offers up until the pick is in (Twitter link via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald). If he does get an offer that convinces him to move down, he won’t want to slide too far.
  • Connor Hughes of The Athletic says Jets GM Joe Douglas could try to engineer a trade up from the No. 23 overall pick, especially if an OL like Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater or USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker should start to fall. However, he doesn’t see Douglas moving into the top-15.