The good news is that 10 of the 13 picks from April have been signed to deals. However, there are still a trio of players left unsigned. While Riley Cooper is not expected to be a problematic signing – unless the Texas Rangers surprise us and try to buy him back out of his football career – Brandon Graham and Nate Allen could present more difficult negotiations.
Graham is on the record as saying that he doesn’t want to be a holdout:
"I need to be here on time because I know that I have an important role," said Graham, the Eagles' first-round pick. "I don't want anybody thinking I'm better than them holding out and stuff like that.
"You lose respect."
The problem is that with first round picks, relative positioning is very tricky. And the problem is not because of signing bonuses. What winds up being the ultimate sticking point are escalators. Andrew Brandt had an article last yearon his experience with the Maclin negotiations and what wound up being the main problem.
In negotiating the contract for Jeremy Maclin, the wide receiver taken after Crabtree in the first round (albeit nine picks later), one of the difficulties was that the selection was sandwiched in the first round by players who were defensive linemen, offensive linemen, a tight end, a quarterback, etc. Should that matter, you ask? For the purposes of base contract and guaranteed money, not really. The player is picked where he’s picked; it’s of no import -- except for a quarterback -- what position he plays.
The place it matters is upside, i.e., escalators. It’s challenging to equate the level of difficulty of the escalator to players in entirely different positions where statistical accomplishments -- very important to a wide receiver -- are largely irrelevant, save for sacks. The primary escalation marker for many positions is playing time, not directly relevant to a receiver.....
In the Maclin negotiation, the concern about escalators from the Maclin camp was that even though the Eagles pass as much as any team in the league, they spread the ball around, lessening the chances for dramatic impact of the escalators.
There are going to be two groups of comparables for slotting purposes. The first group is the players above and below him. The second group is defensive linemen taken around him. Here is the list of those players.
Obviously, the point I am making is that the Eagles veterans, let alone their rookies, report to camp before any of those teams open up. Thus, it is highly likely that Pierre-Paul and Morgan, at a minimum, will wait to see what Graham does before finalizing their own deals.
That puts an immense burden on Graham (if he wants to get into camp on time) to sign before his key benchmarks for 2010 have been established. And more importantly, it puts that burden on his agent, who ultimately is responsible to his client for maximizing that guy’s income.
Graham is represented by Joel Segal. Last year, Segal negotiated two first round deals: Aaron Maybin (signed August 21, jointly negotiated with Chafie Fields) and Percy Harvin (signed August 2). Both guys did not report to their teams on time, and Maybin was arguably set back significantly by the time that he missed.
None of that is meant to be doom and gloom. But let’s set our expectations accordingly. It isn't the end of the world if Graham misses some camp, especially rookie camp. Three weeks like Maybin, yeah, that is no good. But a few days? It's almost to be expected.
Not surprisingly, by the way, the Eagles appear to have prepared for the possibility of him missing time. That is likely why they have 81 guys on their roster, nine of whom are defensive ends. Even with Victor Abiamiri unlikely to participate in camp, they still have eight guys at a position where they usually have six or seven in camp. Let’s put it this way: I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by guessing that Eric Moncur is unlikely to last a minute past Graham’s signing.
The thing about Graham is that he isn’t the most important draft pick to get to camp on time. That guy is Nate Allen. As the current starting safety, it is crucial that he be ready to go in Week 1, more than any other member of his class.
So getting Allen signed is a priority. For second round picks, this isn’t a huge issue. There is the stickiness of the early reporting date to worry about, though. Fortunately, the closest comparable is TJ Ward, a safety taken the pick after Allen, who is due to report to rookie camp three days earlier. Here are the players and defensive backs surrounding Allen, and their report dates.
That aside, deals for second round picks are less complicated to negotiate. And any escalators built into the deal will be that much more likely to be reached by the player given that he will be starting from day 1. Unlike for Maclin, who was playing for a team where passes get spread around, or Graham, where DEs rotate snaps. Allen will probably be asked to play something close to 100% of defensive snaps, assuming he is healthy.
This contract should be easy to negotiate.
Picks in the 5th rounds get the contracts they get, in many ways. A poster named erformc on the EMB has been looking at the bonuses that our signed picks have gotten relative to 2009 draft picks.
His analysis has taught me a couple of things about how bonuses are set. First, the bonus is based not on the overall pick relative to the prior year, but based on the round. For example, Ricky Sapp’s deal was pegged to the 3rd pick in the 5th round for 2009, not to the 134th overall pick. Second, the round in which you are picked has a huge impact on your bonus. For example, last year the last pick in the 4th round, Terrence Thomas, got a signing bonus of $399,250. The first pick in the 5th round, Jason Phillips, got $208,067.* This is almost certainly because of how the rookie cap allocation formula works – that dictates a lot of how the bonus seeding process is determined – but it still strikes me as odd. A nearly $200K difference between the 136th and 137th overall picks? Wow.
Here is how the bonuses for Eagles picks have stacked up against comparable 2009 picks so far, along with my estimate for how Cooper will wind up falling. Note that for the most part, the bonuses for our picks have been rounded, so the percent increases are going to be a little off, especially for the later picks:
We will see how Cooper stacks up once he is signed, but if the pattern holds, I should be pretty close.
* Note that Phillips got $156,050 as a signing bonus on a three-year deal. The number shown puts that figure on a four-year deal equivalent: $208,067 = (4/3)*$156,050. This is consistent with the second pick in the 5th round, who got a bonus of $206,900 for a four-year deal.