With training camp starting on Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars have a hectic agenda ahead of them to get all of their draft picks in camp on time. The flurry of activity this week in the front office should border on frantic as the team tries to button up the contracts on their 2009 draft class.
The big ticket players, Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, will more than likely wind up being the final two players to agree to terms with the Jaguars. They will continue to monitor the contract situations of other draft picks to get a sense for their market value. Neither player is going to race to sign a deal.
Ideally, the Jaguars would love to have all of their draft picks in camp when players report this Sunday. They would even settle for having their picks under contract before they hit the practice field for the first time on Monday morning.
But with only five first-round picks signed a week from the official start of training camp, the odds of having all of their guys signed, sealed, and delivered is beginning to look a little unlikely.
In the past decade, the Jaguars have had two of their first-round selections miss a significant portion of training camp as they held out to get their rookie contracts completed.
In 2003, Byron Leftwich sat out 19 days of training camp while the team worked out the particulars on his contract. The missed practice time did create a significant obstacle to Leftwich's development as a rookie. He did finish the season as the starter, but it was because of an injury and not because he outplayed Mark Brunell by a significant margin.
Last year, Derrick Harvey sat out 33 days waiting on a deal to get done. His holdout cost him all of training camp, and slowed his progress as a rookie. He only started to hit any sort of a stride late in the season when the team was already in free-fall.
Because agents know there is a possibility that a rookie salary cap could become a reality as part of any new collective bargaining agreement, they are scrambling to maximize the contracts this year in anticipation of heavy restrictions moving forward. The end result is one of the slowest signing seasons for high draft picks in league history.
The Jaguars are in a great position to handle any sort of holdouts with their top two picks.
Eugene Monroe is expected to compete for the starting left tackle position immediately. But, if he does hold out and miss training camp, the Jaguars have an insurance policy in free agent acquisition Tra Thomas. The team has a solid starter ready to go in the event of a holdout.
With Eben Britton, the situation is even less of a concern for the team. Tony Pashos has reportedly outperformed the rookie tackle during the spring, so the Jaguars have a starter at right tackle should he be another late signer.
The local media is already starting to spin this as if there is a critical situation developing if the team fails to get their top-two draft picks signed in time for camp. Realistically, it would be more of a problem for the players than for the team if these contracts do not get done in a timely manner.
It will hamper the development of the rookies and hurt their chances of earning starting jobs early in the process.
The lack of a deal will certainly provide a distinct advantage to the veterans currently holding these positions as they develop chemistry with the starting unit and become more fluent and familiar with the playbook.
As we saw last season, practicing in a hotel conference room with stationary chairs does not equate to the same level of exposure a player gets by being involved in the minutiae of two-a-days.
Derrick Harvey may have been able to sack a conference room chair with relative ease. But, that did not allow him to hit the ground running when he finally did arrive on the scene after a 33-day holdout.
The good news is the team will be fine regardless of what these top-two picks do contractually. With quality veteran talent already on the roster, the pressure is squarely on the players to get a deal done quickly so they can compete for those starting positions.