The 2018 draft class will begin getting welcomed into the NFL this weekend, as teams can hold their three-day rookie minicamps during the first two weekends after the NFL draft.
Some draft picks will already be under contract before taking the field for minicamp. The Panthers and Falcons signed their 2017 draft classes before their minicamps started last year. Those draft picks that don't sign deals prior to minicamp will participate under agreements which will pay them according to their draft slot if any type of injury is sustained.
Serious minicamp injuries are a rarity. Dante Fowler, Jr., the 2015 third-overall pick, tore the ACL in his left knee during the Jaguars' first practice of his rookie minicamp. He still received the same contract he would have received if he hadn't gotten hurt.
It is unusual for a draft pick to refuse to participate in the offseason minicamps because his contract hasn't been completed. Joey Bosa, the fifth-overall pick in 2016, is the exception. He skipped the Chargers' mandatory minicamp that June because of a contract dispute after taking part in the rookie minicamp. His contract dispute wasn't resolved until shortly before the 2016 regular season started.
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Here are five financial thoughts and observations about the 2018 NFL Draft.
1. Saquon Barkley's bounty
The rookie wage scale implemented in 2011 by the current Collective Bargaining Agreement is designed to prevent top draft picks from being one of the highest-paid players at their respective positions. It isn't the case with running backs because of the sharp decline in the top of the market in recent years. The Falcons' Devonta Freeman is the current benchmark for long-term deals at $8.25 million per year.
Barkley, the second-overall pick by the Giants, will become the third-highest paid running back on a long-term deal when he signs his contract. His fully guaranteed four-year deal is expected to be approximately $31.2 million ($7.8 million per year). Barkley's fifth-year option in 2022 will be in the $11.75 million neighborhood, provided there's similar salary-cap growth as in recent years and the percentage of the cap running backs take up in the option calculations remains constant.
This dynamic is why there's a view that taking Barkley so high isn't a good value despite him being considered by some to be the best running-back draft prospect in the last 25 years. The same issue with value wouldn't exist if the Giants had taken defensive end/outside linebacker Bradley Chubb instead of Barkley. There are 23 edge rushers with long-team deals averaging more than the second-overall pick's projected contract.
Not only will Barkley have the most guaranteed money in any existing running-back contract but he'll have the second most guarantees ever for a ball carrier. Adrian Peterson holds the record with the $36 million of guarantees in the six-year, $85.28 million contract extension ($14,213,333 average yearly salary) he received from the Vikings in 2011.
2. The most expensive second-round pick in NFL history
The Browns surprisingly took free-agent bust quarterback Brock Osweiler's fully guaranteed $16 million 2017 base salary off the Texans' hands when the 2017 trading period opened that March. The Texans had to give up their 2018 second-round pick and a 2017 sixth-round pick. A 2017 fourth-round pick was acquired by the Texans from the Browns in the process. As expected, the Browns released Osweiler during roster cut-downs last year. Osweiler quickly signed a one-year deal with the Broncos, who had made him a second-round pick in 2012, for his $775,000 league-minimum salary. Since Osweiler's salary guarantee had an offset, the Browns paid him $15.225 million.
The Browns used the second-round pick from Houston to take running back Nick Chubb. As the 35th-overall pick, Chubb is expected to sign four-year deal worth just under $7.385 million. Between the money paid to Osweiler and Chubb's expected deal, the 35th-overall pick is costing the Browns right around $22.61 million.
3. Maybe Lamar Jackson should have hired an agent
The Ravens reportedly considered taking Lamar Jackson with the 16th-overall pick before trading down twice in the first round. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner was thrown a draft lifeline when Baltimore traded back into the bottom of the first round to use the 32nd on him.
Jackson made a controversial decision by having his mother serve as his manager rather than hire an agent. His pre-draft process wasn't smooth sailing. NFL teams reportedly had trouble scheduling meetings and workouts with him, although the Ravens brought the quarterback in for a visit in early April. Jackson reportedly had trouble in combine meetings with teams breaking down X's and O's on the white board. His leaked score on the Wonderlic -- a 12-minute, 50-question exam administered at the combine that the NFL teams rightly or wrongly use to project cognitive ability -- was a 13. It's subpar, particularly for a quarterback.
Jackson's decision may have cost him money. An agent may have made enough of difference in pre-draft preparations by combating Jackson's perceived weaknesses and putting together a game plan that may have prevented the Ravens from initially trading down. Jackson cited the rookie wage scale as the main reason for not hiring an agent since contract values and signing bonuses are predetermined under it.
The 16th-overall pick's four-year deal should be approximately $12.6 million while Jackson's actual four-year contract should be right around $9.475 million. The maximum fee that an agent can charge under the NFLPA's agent regulations is three percent of a negotiated contract. The default fee in the required Standard Representation Agreement that both agents and players must sign was lowered to one-and-a-half percent last year. In some instances, rookies sign with an agent for less than the default fee or pay only a flat fee for their first NFL contract. Jackson would have paid an agent just under $380,000 at the most for negotiating his contract as the 16th pick. He isn't paying an agent anything on his almost $9.475 million. I would imagine if Jackson was given a choice of paying an agent a fee on $12.6 million or nothing on slightly less than $9.5 million, he would choose the former.
4. Wide receiver reluctance
The explosion in wide-receiver salaries during free agency spoke volumes about how NFL teams regarded the wide-receiver draft class. Sammy Watkins is being paid by the Chiefs like an elite wide receiver without matching production. He signed a three-year, $48 million contract containing $30 million fully guaranteed despite catching only 39 passes for 593 yards and eight touchdowns with the Rams last season. Albert Wilson and Paul Richardson received $8 million-per-year deals from the Dolphins and Redskins, respectively, with comparable production to Watkins.
D. J. Moore was the first wide receiver selected when the Panthers took him with the 24th overall pick. Teams addressing major needs at wide receiver in free agency and the relatively weak group of incoming pass catchers resulted in Moore being the lowest the first wide receiver has been drafted since 2008, when there were no wide receivers taken in the first round. The only other first-round wide receiver this year was Calvin Ridley, who taken 26th overall by the Falcons.
5. Rookie wage scale quarterback value
The difference between Sam Bradford's contract and the deal Josh Rosen is expected to sign as the Cardinals' first-round pick is a perfect illustration of what tremendous value quarterbacks are at the top of the draft under the rookie wage scale. Bradford signed a two-year, $40 million contract with the Cardinals despite playing a total of only six quarters of football in 2017 due to issues with his left-knee after previously suffering two ACL tears. He is assured of making $15 million in 2018 because of a $10 million signing bonus and $5 million base salary. Bradford can make as much as $20 million because of $5 million in game-day active-roster bonuses ($312,500 per game). The per-game amount is payable only if Bradford is on the 46-man active roster for that particular game. Rosen's entire four-year rookie contract, which is expected to be $17.6 million, will be less than Bradford's 2018 compensation provided the eight-year veteran stays relatively healthy.