Why Are There so Many 3rd-Round NFL Draft Picks That Are Still Unsigned?

Sigmund BloomNFL Draft Lead WriterJuly 5, 2012

Minnesota Vikings third-round cornerback Josh Robinson is one of the players being held up by the third-round impasse
Minnesota Vikings third-round cornerback Josh Robinson is one of the players being held up by the third-round impasseHannah Foslien/Getty Images

After the early flurry of draft pick signings, most of us tuned out with the expectation that as always, first-round picks would be the last to sign, but everyone would show up to camp on time. With over 85 percent of picks signed, that tack was probably the right one to take, but it also might have caused us to overlook the curious case of the unsigned third-round picks.

Len Pasquarelli of the Sports Xchange reports that as of two weeks ago, 14 third-round picks had not come to an agreement about their rookie contract with their team, including the first nine picks of the round. New Orleans Saints third-round defensive tackle Akiem Hicks signed last week, but that still leaves almost one-half of the third round without a deal. According to Pasquarelli, no round other than the first has more than three unsigned draft picks.

The dispute stems from the "25 percent rule" per Pasquarelli. That is the rule that allows teams to give rookies raises of up to 25 percent of the combined total of their rookie salary and one-quarter of their signing bonus. Pasquarelli ran the numbers for the first pick of the third round, Indianapolis tight end Dwayne Allen. He needs to check his math, but the difference between giving Allen the minimum salaries and giving him the full 25 percent raise is less than four hundred thousand dollars over the life of the contract. 

What makes this more baffling is that most, if not all of that money is not guaranteed. The difference between the minimum raise and a 25 percent raise is irrelevant if the player is cut before his contract is over. Likewise, if the player becomes quality depth or a starter, the difference in the amount of raise becomes irrelevant because they are playing at a massive discount either way.

What kind of message does it send to players when their teams are digging in their heels for what amounts to petty cash over the long haul? When it comes time to negotiate a second contract before the player hits free agency, will they assume the team is paying them fair market value, or the lowest amount that they think they can get away with? 

The teams at the top of the third round need to do the right thing and commit to the modest raises that they won't even have to pay unless their draft pick is earning it (and more).