The Miami Dolphins have signed five of their seven draft picks so far this offseason. As always our team of authors, lead by Kevin Nogle, has been all over this subject. But, it doesn’t stop questions from arising about why certain players have not signed, or what the players can and can not do until they have signed. That is going to be my focus for today’s article. What can we expect? When can we expect it? And, how are we doing compared to other teams at completing our signings?
Well, it all comes back the collective bargaining agreement set forth by the NFL and the NFLPA (the players association). In the days of yore, you know before 2012, it was common for players to not sign a contract right up until training camp or even hold out through parts of training camp. There was a lot more to negotiate, especially with first round players. Agents wouldn’t want their player to sign a contract only to have someone picked after them sign a higher priced deal. Players certainly wouldn’t want that either. The CBA has done away with this notion because each pick has been assigned a relative value based on the order of selection. Teams, players and agents all have a very good idea of exactly how much money these guys are going to get paid as soon as the pick is in!
And let’s face it, these are extremely team friendly deals. The NFLPA had more obligation to the guys already in the league than they did the new guys coming in, and that seems fairly evident. Teams had a genuine concern regarding paying unknown players exorbitant contracts they would never live up to earning. So now, there is little left to negotiate besides some bonus money vs. salary money, and some offset language for injury. Some teams still wait longer, some teams like to get it out of the way early. Over the last couple of years, the Dolphins have fallen into the category of sooner rather than later.
So let’s take a look at where Miami is compared to other teams at this point in the process. So far, only three teams have signed their 1st round pick, the Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, and Baltimore Ravens. Regarding Miami and Charles Harris, they are not behind the curve at all, as most of these first round picks remain unsigned. Moving to the 2nd round selections, again only three teams have signed their selections, the Panthers, Ravens and Dolphins. Of the 3rd round selections, there are two currently signed, the Ravens and Dolphins. I am beginning to sense a theme.
Moving to the day three selections we start to see more signings. The Dolphins didn’t have a 4th round pick, but only four of those have signed with their respective teams. Jumping to the 5th round, 10 players have been signed including Miami’s Isaac Asiata. However, fellow Dolphins 5th round pick Davon Godchaux is not among them. Another 10 selections from the 6th round have signed, including Miami’s Vincent Taylor. The number drops back down to five of the 7th round picks having officially signed on with the team, again, this includes the Dolphins pick, Isaiah Ford. Most of the teams that have signed any players, have signed the majority of picks; they are: the Ravens, Panthers, Dolphins, San Fransisco 49ers, and Green Bay Packers. While other teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, and the New York Jets, are taking an approach of starting near the end of the draft and signing players in reverse order of their selection.
In total, Miami is far and wide ahead of the majority of the league in regards to signing their draft picks. In the next week, all teams will have completed their Rookie Mini-Camp. By the end of the month the Dolphins, and most of the NFL, will begin OTA workouts. And in mid June, Mandatory Mini-Camps will be underway league wide. On first glance, one would assume: No Contract, No Work. However, players can (and do) sign something called a “Letter of Protection” meaning that although their contract has not been signed, they can participate in workouts and be guaranteed the same contract value if they were to be injured. This provides much less risk for the player and much less stress for the front office.
In essence, July’s Training Camp is the deadline for a player to sign their contract before they are officially “hold-outs” and no longer participating in regularly scheduled workouts with the team. The only time the Dolphins have experienced this under the new CBA is with Ryan Tannehill who held out for all of two days in order to get some injury off-set language changed. Since then the team has been among the first in the league to sign all of their players. So don’t worry if Harris or Godchaux haven’t signed yet. They are extremely likely to participate in practices even without a contract. But, my gut says they are likely to sign contracts closer to the end of May than they are the beginning of July.
What do you think? Is there still concern around players that haven’t signed? Or now that we have a clearer picture of what is going on league wide do you feel more comfortable?