Quarterback Robert Griffin III, the second overall selection in last week’s NFL draft by the Washington Redskins, has yet to sign his first pro contract. But thanks to the sport’s year-old rookie pay system, that should be a mere formality, with little chance of complicated and extended negotiations that would threaten to delay Griffin’s arrival at his first NFL training camp this summer.
Griffin is likely to sign a deal similar to the fully guaranteed, four-year, $21 million contract that linebacker Von Miller, the second pick in the 2011 draft, signed with the Denver Broncos last July.
The pact likely will include a signing bonus of close to $14 million. Miller’s signing bonus was $13.773 million.
It’s not clear how extensively the Redskins and Griffin’s representatives have discussed his contract, if at all. The Redskins declined to comment. Griffin’s representatives did not return a message seeking comment.
Rookie contracts have tended to be negotiated in the weeks leading up to training camp. But this is the first full offseason with the rookie pay system, negotiated by the league and the players’ union as part of the 10-year collective bargaining agreement completed last year.
Rookie signings were completed during the whirlwind of player moves that followed the 4-1/2-month lockout last year. So it’s not clear if the sport will continue to operate on its traditional timetable for rookie signings or whether that timetable will be changed by the new system.
Under the system, rookies taken in the draft sign four-year contracts (undrafted rookies sign three-year deals).
The deals for first-round picks contain fifth-year options that a team must exercise after a player’s third NFL season. In the case of a top 10 pick like Griffin, the fifth-year salary would be equal to the average salary of the 10 highest-paid quarterbacks in the league.
The contract cannot be renegotiated for at least three seasons. The system is designed to get rookies to training camp on time. Complicated contract mechanisms such as buy-back clauses and voidable years are no longer permissible, although there is a standard escalator clause in the contracts of rookies drafted in the third through seventh rounds.
The exact financial value of the contract is not predetermined. But each team is given a salary cap figure for its rookies and another cap figure for those rookies over the four years of their original contracts. A team also is given a minimum contract value for each of its draft picks.
The projected value of the contract for each spot in the draft was not supposed to be given to teams and agents. But last year those numbers were given to the teams after they first were distributed mistakenly to the agents by the union. The league and union will decide whether to make the distribution of those figures an annual practice.
The point of debate for teams and the agents representing players who were first-round picks last year became whether the deals would be fully guaranteed. In general, players drafted in the upper half of the opening round received fully guaranteed deals, while many of those drafted in the bottom half of the first round had to settle for three of the four seasons guaranteed.
Even that comparatively modest amount of sparring between teams and agents dismayed league officials who had hoped the new system, with its simpler contracts, would make rookie negotiations virtually trouble-free.