Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features

CoxMar15.jpg

» Varsity Numbers: Honing in

Bill Connelly again looks at which college football teams the F/+ ratings are sure about, and which teams remain a mystery (led by Appalachian State).

21 Jun 2011

Under The Cap: Rookie Signings

by Brian McIntyre

In order to preserve a normal training camp and preseason, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has said a new labor deal would need to be in place by July 4. Of course, if 2011 at all resembled a normal NFL offseason, teams would be wrapping up their "Organized Team Activity" sessions this week before taking six weeks off before training camp. This would also be the stretch of the offseason where football administration departments would be attempting to get their unsigned draft choices under contract.

The conventional wisdom when it comes to signing draft picks is that nothing gets done until camp is approaching. New Orleans Saints right tackle Jon Stinchcomb said as much last week, when he likened the current state of the labor talks to the signing of draft picks.

"My guess is it's starting to become crunch time," Stinchcomb told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "For both sides. When CBAs are expiring it's always those last minute deals. You know, the same thing we see every year with the draft picks. The draft is in April and nobody gets signed until late in July. So I think it's that same mentality -- until your feet are pressed to the fire, that's when you get that sense of urgency."

While that's largely been true of the Saints' approach to signing draft picks, and remains the way teams approach first- and second-round picks, NFL front offices have become more proactive in recent years when it comes to signing their mid-to-late round draft choices.

Using Irsay's unofficial Independence Day deadline as a guide, records from the former players union show just more than 10 percent of the 2006 draft class was signed by July 4, 2006. During the past four offseasons, that figure has skyrocketed to where more than 46 percent of the 2010 draft class had signed their first NFL contract by July 4.

Ultimately, we're only talking about a handful (or two) of essentially slotted rookie contracts per team that will need to be negotiated when the 2011 league year begins. But with veteran and undrafted rookie free agency coinciding with draftee signings, the nine weeks of post-draft inactivity due to the lockout means football administration departments will be working overtime during a part of the NFL calendar they're usually negotiating one or two early-round contracts before camp.

Percentage of NFL Draft Choices Signed by July 4

Year
Drafted
Signed
% Signed
2006
255
26
10.2%
2007
255
69
27.1%
2008
252
70
27.8%
2009
256
102
39.8%
2010
255
118
46.3%
Total
1273
385
30.2%

The 118 players signed last year had contracts totaling $230.6 million, with just less than $29 million in signing bonuses and guarantees. Those totals are without any of the first- or second-round picks, as St. Louis Rams third-round cornerback Jerome Murphy (first pick in round three, 65th overall) was the highest drafted player with a signed contract.

Twelve other third-round picks (13 of 34 total) had signed, as had 23 of the 33 fourth round picks, 22 of the 38 fifth round picks, 27 of the 38 sixth round picks, and 33 of the 48 players chosen in the seventh round.

Only six teams -- the Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, and Oakland Raiders -- did not sign a draft pick prior to last July 4.

Team-by-Team Percentage of Signed Draft Choices by July 4, 2006-2010

Team
Drafted
Signed
% Signed
Chicago
42
38
90.5%
Philadelphia
47
32
68.1%
Washington
33
19
57.6%
Pittsburgh
43
21
48.8%
Miami
41
20
48.8%
Atlanta
42
20
47.6%
Seattle
37
17
45.9%
NY Giants
38
17
44.7%
San Francisco
39
16
41.0%
Tampa Bay
42
15
35.7%
Buffalo
43
14
32.6%
Arizona
34
11
32.4%
Houston
38
11
28.9%
Carolina
42
12
28.6%
Tennessee
47
13
27.7%
St. Louis
44
12
27.3%
Team
Drafted
Signed
% Signed
NY Jets
27
7
25.9%
Green Bay
47
12
25.5%
Jacksonville
37
9
24.3%
Baltimore
40
9
22.5%
Kansas City
41
9
22.0%
Minnesota
33
7
21.2%
San Diego
33
7
21.2%
New Orleans
31
6
19.4%
Detroit
40
7
17.5%
New England
50
8
16.0%
Denver
39
6
15.4%
Cincinnati
45
5
11.1%
Oakland
39
4
10.3%
Cleveland
38
1
2.6%
Dallas
40
0
0.0%
Indianapolis
41
0
0.0%
Total
1273
385
30.2%

The Bears percentage is really 92.9 percent, as 2007 first-round tight end Greg Olsen signed on July 5. Bears Senior Director of Football Administration Cliff Stein has only had one pick (2007 second-round defensive end Dan Bazuin) not signed by the rookie reporting date for training camp. The Jets signed 2007 sixth-round offensive lineman Jacob Bender on July 5, which would boost their percentage to 29.6 percent.

In the last five years, the Cowboys haven't signed a draft pick before July 15, while the earliest the Colts have signed a pick was July 23.

Posted by: Brian McIntyre on 21 Jun 2011

5 comments, Last at 23 Jun 2011, 9:01am by Dean

Comments

1
by Sophandros :: Tue, 06/21/2011 - 12:20pm

FWIW, I took the above chart and compared it to regular season winning percentage over the same time frame, and found that there was almost no correlation. Not surprising, just an observation.

-------------
Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

2
by Tom Gower :: Tue, 06/21/2011 - 1:54pm

So in other words, if there's no deal by July 4, the Colts can't piggyback off other teams setting the market and have to deal with more uncertainty in signing rookies? That certainly sounds like a terrible, terrible tragedy to me.

3
by John (not verified) :: Tue, 06/21/2011 - 4:06pm

Apropos of nothing, it's at least mildly curious that the teams with the most and fewest draft picks over the indicated time period are both in the AFC East. The Jets are nearly 13 picks below the mean.

4
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Wed, 06/22/2011 - 8:46pm

I guess that would have to indicate either picks traded away for veteran players, or a lack of supplemental picks, right?

5
by Dean :: Thu, 06/23/2011 - 9:01am

Or trading up on draft day.