Remember the days of rookie holdouts over contract impasses?
Rookie first-round pick Russell Okung missed the first six days of his first Seahawks' training camp in 2010 while in hard-ball talks on his first NFL deal. I still remember walking on the Eastern Washington University campus when Kelly Jennings drove up on a weekday morning during practice to training camp, after veterans had already started work in the summer of 2006. Yes, even Jennings, a forgotten Seahawks cornerback and first-round pick, once had a contract situation before ever playing an NFL game.
Heck, there used to be "training camp holdout watch lists."
The NFL's official transactions for Tuesday showed the Seahawks signed fifth-round draft choice Jamarco Jones and seventh-round pick Alex McGough to their four-year rookie deals.
That means Seattle has five of its nine selections from the draft already signed—and the draft was only two weeks ago. The team has yet to hold organized team activities or its mandatory offseason veteran minicamp yet, let alone training camp that begins the last week of July.
The league can thank Sam Bradford for ending its previous rookie nonsense.
In 2010, the rookie quarterback and number one-overall pick from Oklahoma that year got $50 million in guaranteed money from the St. Louis Rams on a six-year, $78 million contract. Bradford's deal was at the time the most guaranteed cash in NFL history— for a kid just out of college who had never played in a pro game. Such was the result of years of market inflation and leveraging between the agents for top rookie draft picks and teams with ballooning revenues and cash to spend.
Back then, veteran players were irate that their teams were giving college kids more money than they had earned in years.
It's clear now the players got largely had in the 2011 negotiations with owners over a new collective bargaining agreement, yielding too much of league revenues, among other issues. But one accomplishment the union did for its veterans in negotiating that new CBA that runs through 2020 is creating a schedule for, and cap, on rookie contracts.
Deals for drafted rookies are all now four years, with teams holding a fifth-year option on first-round picks. And the money allotted to all picks in all seven rounds are slotted.
The veterans, of course, love it. Teams do, too. Owners are absolutely for anything that limits their costs while their revenues continue to rise year after year.
NFL rookie salaries are now in relation to each year's salary cap for all players on a team's roster, and based on a league-defined rookie compensation pool. That pool is expected to be about $1.25 billion for all 32 teams this year, with an estimated $520 million of that earmarked for first-round picks. That total isn't split evenly about the teams. It's divided in proportion to each team's total number of draft picks and where those selections were in each round.
So Cleveland, with the first picks in each round after being the league's worst team in 2017 plus the recipient of many extra picks through trades, gets a far larger portion of the league's 2018 rookie compensation pool than Super Bowl-champion Philadelphia.
The Seahawks, who originally held the 18th-overall pick in round one of last month's draft after their first non-playoff season in six years, are close to the middle of the league pack in rookie compensation pool money.
To further limit spending on rookie deals, this CBA has a "25-percent Increase Rule." That mandates a rookie's annual total of base salary plus bonus money cannot increase by more than 25 percent from any one year to the next within his contract. So even inflation on any rookie contract is now capped.
The Seahawks have four more rookie picks to sign, including first-round draft choice Rashaad Penny. But unlike in the previous CBA, those remaining deals aren't a matter of if, but when.
As in, over the coming weeks, not months.
Based on the 2018 salary cap of $177.2 million for each team and calculating the rookie compensation pool for each team off that, Forbes has already estimated what the contracts for Penny and every other first-round pick will be.
Comparing Bradford of eight years ago to now: 2018 first-overall pick Baker Mayfield, coincidentally also a quarterback from Oklahoma, is slotted to get a $33.2 million contract with a $22.2 million signing bonus from Cleveland.
From $78 million total and $50 million guaranteed to not even half of each. Name another NFL money figure that hasn't gone up but decreased, and by more than 50 percent, over the last eight years.
Penny, the running back from San Diego State, is slotted to get a deal from the Seahawks with a total value of $10,903,622, with a signing bonus of $6,000,306. Much of his contract is likely to be guaranteed; the higher the draft picks, the more the deal is guaranteed because the team's expectation of performance is obviously higher. Guaranteed money and clauses are some of the few negotiating points remaining in slotted rookie contracts under this CBA.
So, no, don't expect Penny to pull a Kelly Jennings and show up after training camp begins at Seahawks headquarters in Renton on or about July 26.
Sam Bradford and the NFL's new CBA took care of that.