Yesterday, the Cincinnati Bengals finally came to terms with their first round draft pick Keith Rivers. Terms were not disclosed, but based off what 10th overall pick Jerod Mayo received, it is believed that Rivers could earn up to $20 million if he hits all of his incentives. This contract dispute, which caused Rivers to miss twelve practices, seems to be the norm in Bengals training camp over the past few years.
In basketball, there are scaled rookie contracts for first round picks. Each player knows what he will make and the length of his deal--the only uncertainty is seeing what the salary cap is set at, changing the final numbers. In football, however, there is no structure, and unproven rookies (see: Jamarcus Russell) are consistently being paid more than their veteran counterparts. This scenario has caused much strife recently, but the league seems unwilling to change the rules. Most teams accept this as a fact and quickly negotiate with their players so they do not miss any of training camp, but as always, there are exceptions to the rule.
The Bengals are typically very tight-pocketed when it come to signing first round picks under Mike Brown's ownership. This year, Rivers missed 12 valuable practices while negotiations took place, and a few days ago it was even said the two sides were far from reaching a deal. Last year, Leon Hall missed the first two practices and was the last Bengals rookie to sign a deal. Three year ago, David Pollack had a stalemate in negotiations that led him to miss all of training camp and subsequently have a very slow start to his career. The length of these negotiations almost always hurts the team, so why are the Bengals so willing to let them drag on?
To me, it seems irresponsible as a franchise to let your future stars wallow on the sidelines while they could be practicing, keeping the starting spots that head coach Marvin Lewis has set aside for them, and overall assimilating into the professional game. However, Mike Brown has kept his wallet shut tight when it comes to signing off on these deals. While it is true that the Bengals are a small-market team and have less to work with, Brown would be derelict in his duty to the team if he was not making it as good as possible. Bengals fans have been tortured for nearly two decades, and now that the fortunes of the team have begun to turn, it seems necessary to make a few concessions to at least shed the 'Bungles' moniker that the team has been saddled with.
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