Teams and player agents still have negotiating to do when it comes to the influx of rookies taken in the 2016 NFL Draft, but getting the rookies to put pen to paper on a contract is simpler now than it was in 2010 and the years prior. That was the final season before the latest collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players' Association was enacted.
Each of the 250-plus draft slots are allotted a specific portion of the league's total rookie compensation pool, effectively introducing a wage scale dependent on draft position. This means no more holdouts extending into training camp and few points of contention between agents and teams when it comes time to sign.
The biggest reason this change was made is obvious: first-round picks were getting paid a ton of money, and agents rarely wanted to negotiate until July for fear that another player taken in a later draft spot would get more money than his guy. It got to the point where teams didn't want the first overall pick in the draft because it would mean committing franchise quarterback-type money to an unproven rookie.
Now, that's all out the door. Rookies get paid based on draft positioning and teams already have that money allocated against the salary cap for each draft class. Contract value and bonus amounts are predetermined, based on the pool and the league's salary cap, which is set at $155.27 million this season. The only negotiable items are the offset language (the ability for a team to get back guaranteed money if the player is released and finds a new team), terms for the payment of bonus money and small things of that nature.
Each drafted rookie will sign a four-year deal, with first-round picks all having a team option for a fifth-year built into their deals by default. Undrafted rookies are also subject to the wage scale (preventing players from holding out of the NFL Draft to get a bigger deal) and are only eligible for three-year deals. Teams have to enact the fifth-year option for their first-round picks between the third and fourth years of the player's deal.
Things are a whole lot more manageable for teams, especially when it comes to first-round picks. Jared Goff will likely earn about the number that a franchise quarterback earns in a single year ... but over the course of his entire rookie deal. Carson Wentz is in a similar position, as are most players taken in the top 10.
Last year, Jameis Winston signed a four-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers worth $25 million, less than 24 hours after he was drafted. Compare that to the deal that Sam Bradford signed with the St. Louis Rams before the wage scale was implemented: $76 million over six years with $50 million guaranteed.
The only real knock with the way new deals are handled concern the later-round players who perform well. Russell Wilson was reportedly unhappy with his contract after he excelled as a rookie, but the collective bargaining agreement also will not let players negotiate new deals until they're in the fourth year of their rookie contract. And there is nothing that compels teams to do so after that third year, either.
As of May 6, dozens of rookies have already signed their deals. The Atlanta Falcons were the first team to get their entire draft class signed, not even out of the first week of May. Yeah, it's safe to say it's a lot easier to get rookie deals done these days.