Offset language might be slowing rookie signings

  • By Brian McIntyre
  • Published: June 4, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.
  • Updated: June 4, 2012 at 11:26 a.m.

There is little doubt that the new collective bargaining agreement has made rookie signings easier -- 12 of the 32 first round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft having signed contracts already is a testament to that. Only two of this year's first round picks with a signed contract were selected in the Top 10, however, and Len Pasquarelli of reported Sunday that "offset language" has become a sticking point when it comes to getting players selected at the top of the first round under contract.

Offset language on future guaranteed salary provides relief to a club if a player is a released before that season and signs with another team. Here's an example: If the Jacksonville Jaguars release a player who is guaranteed $1,000,000 in salary, and he signs with another club and earns $750,000 that season, the Jaguars' obligation to the player would be reduced to $250,000 if there is offset language written into the contract.
The $22.025 million contract that Cam Newton signed as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft does not contain any such language. According to Pasquarelli, the Carolina Panthers also did not obtain offset language in the $12.579 million contract that Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, the No. 9-overall pick, signed last month.
Agents for players picked in the top eight will point to the Kuechly contract as precedent -- and most will succeed. After all, it's unlikely that the Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins or Miami Dolphins will seek offset language in the respective contracts for quarterbacks Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill.

The Cleveland Browns could seek an offset for Trent Richardson's deal, as Richardson plays a position -- running back -- with a shorter NFL lifespan. Off-field concerns, such as wide receiver Justin Blackmon's aggravated DUI arrest on Sunday, could prompt the Jacksonville Jaguars to push harder for an offset on the $2.9 million in fully guaranteed base salary Blackmon is projected to earn in the final year of his contract. They possibly could consider such a move even more because it was Blackmon's second DUI arrest in three years.
The offset issue might not be confined to the Top-8 picks, either. According to a source with knowledge of the contracts, St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, the No. 14 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, has offset language on the $1.233 full guaranteed base salary he's due in 2013. Most of New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara's $795,200 base salary in 2014 is offset, as well. Amukamara was the No. 19 pick in 2011 and was the last of the 254 players selected in the draft to sign a contract.