Another domino fell in the NFL over the weekend when second overall pick Luke Joeckel reached a four year, $21.2 million agreement with the Jaguars. Joeckel, once considered the overall number one player in the 2013 NFL Draft, becomes just the ninth first round selection to sign a contract this year.
Since the renegotiation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011, prolonged contract negotiations for top picks have largely fallen by the wayside. The reason lies in the compacted rookie salary pool and more team-favorable terms bargained away by the NFLPA in exchange for lighter practice conditions and other compromises for veterans.
Some pre-2011 rookie negotiation practices continue, however. Teams and agents continue to rankle over how much more money this year's draft pick should receive than the player taken at the same spot the previous year. The amount of money that is guaranteed is also negotiable, and that is likely a cause for some of these delays for high picks.
As things are currently situated, it could be a while before this year's late first round picks agree to terms. The closest first-rounder to Jones who has agreed to a contract thus far is 20th overall pick Kyle Long, who signed his 4-year, $8.3 million deal. However, that deal provides little guidance for the picks behind him.
Long signed his contract with the Bears shortly after the draft, suggesting that he and his agent accepted a minimal salary increase over last year's 20th pick, Kendall Wright, who received $8.2 million from the Titans. Consequently, 21st overall pick Tyler Eifert will argue that his deal should pay as close to Long's as possible while the Bengals will try to keep Eifert's deal substantially below Long's. This delays negotiation for the 22nd overall pick, Desmond Trufant, and so on.
Working in the opposite direction, Alec Ogletree, the 30th overall pick of the St. Louis Rams, has agreed to a deal, and the process can work its way in reverse from there to Jones.
The good news for the Packers is that they have over a month before players report for training camp. That's enough time for the picks around Jones to wrap up their contract negotiations, and for him to agree to terms with Green Bay. Accordingly, there's no reason for fans to fear a bitter contract negotiation that lasts deep into training camp.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Co. He has previously written for Lombardi Ave, College Hoops Net, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is also currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter: @JBHirschhorn