Common sense says that three months would be enough time to work out a contract for a NFL first-round pick. Why teams and agents wait until the final week or so before camp to hammer out deals has always been beyond me. Yes, both sides say they want to let the market set itself first, but most of the rookies will get a contract that is pretty similar to what the guy selected in the same draft spot got last year. To risk a holdout over a relatively small amount of money is odd. While late-round picks are usually signed with plenty of time to spare, even the second round isn’t a lock anymore. Today the Jets became the first team to sign a second-round pick, signing guard Vladamir Ducasse. No first-rounders are signed.
While it makes little sense that the signings drag on through the summer, that’s the reality of the NFL. While Mike Shanahan’s regime had a pretty good record of getting picks into camp on time, Josh McDaniels’ first draft class lagged behind a bit. Linebacker Robert Ayers missed seven full-squad practices while holding out. Running back Knowshon Moreno missed 12 full-squad practices during his holdout. While it’s impossible to quantify how much missing those days hurt the rookies’ progress, it likely didn’t help.
One of the reasons the Broncos had some holdout issues last year is the team had never had two first-round picks before. First-round picks generally have more complicated contracts, and the Broncos have the same challenge again this year. Receiver Demaryius Thomas and quarterback Tim Tebow were both selected by Denver in the first round this April.
In Thomas’ case, Dallas receiver Dez Bryant’s contract situation will bear watching. Bryant was the 24th overall pick, two spots after Thomas, even though Bryant was widely predicted to be the first receiver off the board. Thomas’ representatives will probably be wary about signing a deal that could be trumped by Bryant’s deal. (Agents are loathe to have their clients sign a deal that is worse than one a lower draft pick received, because they feel that could hurt them in recruiting other players down the line.)
Tebow’s deal won’t be easy either, because he’s a quarterback and a likely starter for the Broncos in the next year or two.
But it’s important for the Broncos to get the two deals done as soon as they can, because both rookies are rather raw. Thomas is coming from a triple-option offense that had a simplistic passing attack. He needs time in the Broncos’ complicated passing offense, especially after missing so many offseason practices recovering from a foot injury. Tebow’s need for experience in a pro offense has been well documented.
The Broncos need to get both first-round picks in quickly so they don’t fall behind. That will be quite a challenge for the front office in the upcoming weeks.