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Understanding the issues that could be holding up Terrell Edmunds’ rookie contract

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NFL: NFL Draft Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

With the start of training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers just a few day away, many fans are becoming increasingly concerned that Terrell Edmunds remains unsigned. Taken with the 28th overall selection, Edmunds is one of only six first-round picks who have yet to sign their contract and the only one in the group not selected in the top 10 overall.

While the situation for the players at the top end of the draft is somewhat complicated by the lack of deals signed by those around them, this is not the case for Edmunds. Before the 29th overall pick in the draft agreed to terms with the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, it had be theorized that Edmunds was waiting for Taven Bryan to sign his deal to set the base line for negotiations. However, Bryan put pen to paper last Wednesday and there has still been no news about Edmunds.

Thanks to the structure of the CBA when it comes to rookie contracts, there can be no real disputes about the overall value of the deal, but there can be a lot of negotiation about some of the language included in these contracts. Although Edmunds is expected to receive an offer worth almost $10.7 million over four-years that includes a signing bonus in the region of $5.68 million, according to OverTheCap.com, there are still plenty of other details about the contract to discuss.

In an article released on Sunday, Joe Rutter of TribLive suggested that offset language was the stumbling block in negotiations based on the national narrative of rookie contract holdups this offseason, but there have been no published reports indicating this was the actually the case for Edmunds, even if it is a likely cause.

Despite the difficulties veteran players have securing guaranteed contracts, the deals offered to first-round draft picks are almost completely guaranteed. For players taken in the first half of the round, the full amount is guaranteed, and for those taken at the back end of Round 1, the guaranteed amount often covers the first three years and a part of the fourth year. Looking at the contract signed by T.J. Watt last season as the 30th overall pick, $7,933,745 of a deal worth $9,258,810 was fully guaranteed.

Offset language comes into play when a player is released before the end of his rookie contract. With potentially all, or a least a large portion of his contract guaranteed depending how far into his rookie contact he was released, the team cutting the player does not want to be on the hook for guaranteed money if the player they release goes on to sign with another franchise that year. So if the Steelers were to cut Edmunds at the end of his third season, they do not want to be playing him $500,000 in year four when he is playing for another club paying him that amount and more.

For the player signing his rookie deal, eliminating or reducing any offset language as much as possible provides them the ability to effectively get paid twice should they get cut before their rookie contract is up. There can be no doubt that this is a contentious issue for negotiations, but it is not the only hurdle that both side must overcome when trying to reach an agreement.

Some might assume that the signing bonus portion of a contract is paid to a player in a lump sum when they finally put pen to paper, but that is rarely the case. Most teams like to defer a portion of the signing bonus payment, often wanting to pay it out over the course of the regular season and in many rookie contracts, waiting until the start of following year to pay a significant percentage of the bonus.

This was the issue that held up the signing of Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa last year, and one that was only resolved when the Chargers agreed to defer less of his money into 2018 and pay him a larger percentage upfront. It is also worth noting that Bosa was represented by CAA in his negotiations in 2017, the same company that Edmunds signed with coming out of college. Of the seven rookies still unsigned, six first-round picks and second-round selection Dante Pettis, all but one are represented by CAA. A fact that is perhaps more than just a coincidence.

Once these details are agreed, perhaps the only sticking point that could remain would be the issue of voids. Having had their fair share of troubled rookies in the past, it would not be a surprise if the Steelers were more interested in clauses that would void guarantees than other teams. While language that voids the guaranteed portion of the contract due to suspension or obvious criminal acts is fairly standard, some teams have tried to extend this language to cover things less significant like basic team rules.

Although it is hard to believe that Pittsburgh would try and push this too far, it is likely to extend to issues like riding a motorcycle without a helmet (blame Big Ben) or limiting any behavioural issues the Steelers have a problem with. However, given Edmunds’ clean history, it is hard to imagine there any significant problems to overcome in negotiations there.

For those wondering, splits are not normally included in rookie contracts for first-round draft picks like they are for player taken in later rounds, so they will not be an issue for Edmunds. A split is a clause in the contract that allows the team to pay the player a reduced salary if they are placed on injured reserve or the physically unable to perform list (PUP). More of an issue for Day 3 draft selections and undrafted free agents.

All this being said, Edmunds will probably have signed his rookie deal by the time he arrives at training camp on Wednesday, but if not, it will because one or more of the issues listed above has yet to be resolved.