Even with this, the NFL teams are showing a good record of signings at this time. It's typical that the higher dollar draftees take longer to sign.
Packers aim to get rookies under contract
By Rob Demovsky
With organized team activities completed, the Green Bay Packers have one main objective before training camp begins in less than six weeks: Get the rest of their rookies under contract.
The Packers have signed two of their 11 draft picks, third-round pick Aaron Rouse and fifth-rounder David Clowney. The more difficult negotiations, however, have not yet begun in earnest.
General Manager Ted Thompson and vice president of player finance Andrew Brandt have a tight rookie salary pool of $4.907 million, which is the maximum amount of salary cap space the Packers can use to sign their draft picks and undrafted rookie free agents. That's about $630,000 more than the NFL rookie pool average for 2007, but no team had more draft picks than the Packers.
The Packers had the highest rookie salary pool at $6.647 million last year, when they had 12 picks, including the fifth overall selection in the draft, linebacker A.J. Hawk. Their rookie pool this year is close to what it was in 2005, when it also had 11 draft picks but selected at No. 24 in the first round. Their first-round pick this season, defensive tackle Justin Harrell, was at No. 16, meaning he likely will command more first-year money than quarterback Aaron Rodgers received as the 24th pick in 2005.
Signing bonuses won't be the difficult parts of the negotiations with the draft picks, because those tend to fall in line with the players taken in similar spots, but structuring the deals to fit under the rookie salary pool will be the challenge facing Brandt and Thompson.
"The process continues as it always has," Brandt said this week. "We're in discussions with all of our draft picks."
Considering how heavily the Packers could rely on several rookies — especially Harrell, second-round draft pick Brandon Jackson, a candidate to start at running back, and James Jones, a possible No. 3 receiver — it would behoove them to have their entire draft class under contract before training camp begins on July 28.
That timetable is even more critical for Harrell, who played in only three games last season at Tennessee due to a torn biceps tendon. That injury caused the Packers to take cautious approach with Harrell this spring, holding him out of most minicamp and OTA workouts.
Like most agents, Harrell's representative, Eugene Parker, can be difficult to negotiate with at times. One of his clients, Chicago Bears running back Cedric Benson, missed nearly all of his rookie training camp in 2005 before agreeing to a deal. However, the Packers haven't had any trouble signing Parker's clients of late. Parker represents receiver Greg Jennings, a second-round pick last season who signed before training camp. He also represented former first-round pick Ahmad Carroll, who also signed his rookie contract before camp opened.
"I'm fully confident in my agent, and he has a pretty good relationship with people here in Green Bay," Harrell said. "So pretty much, I ain't worried about that. (Signing before camp) was the goal coming in, even if I wouldn't have been hurt. My agent pretty much has a good feel where I'm coming from, and I feel 100 percent that he's going to get the job done."
Several NFL teams have signed a few draft picks, but the signing season begins in earnest now that most clubs have wrapped up their offseason workouts. The Packers completed their OTAs on Tuesday.