The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to begin mandatory mini camp this week. Once complete, the Steelers players will have a little more than a month until they are scheduled to report for training camp in preparation for the 2021 season. Although the Steelers have 90 players currently on the roster, only 89 of those players are under contract.
The lone hold out at this time is 2021 third-round draft pick Kendrick green. Perhaps the phrase “hold out” is not the most accurate in this case as it’s not as though Green hasn’t been participating in OTAs. Draft picks can still participate in offseason activities even if they haven’t signed the contract with their team. So not signing his contract has not inhibited Green throughout the offseason.
But what’s the hold up?
The other eight Steelers draft picks from 2021 have all signed their contracts. Ever since the 2011 CBA, the flexibility in contracts for draft picks is minimal. The salary cap hit for each one of the Steelers draft picks was known before they were even selected in the 2021 NFL draft. Najee Harris’ four year deal, which is fully guaranteed, was pretty cut and dry and signed weeks ago. Actually, it was the Steelers fourth through seventh round picks who all signed quickly with the Steelers followed by their first round pick in Harris and second round pick Pat Freiermuth. But weeks later, Green has still yet to sign a deal.
There are a number of factors which could be involved with Kendrick Green not having his four-year contract signed at this time. First, it could simply be outside factors such as his agent hasn’t been able to work out those few specifics with the Steelers due to other commitments. It’s not like this is something that has been specifically mentioned, but merely a possibility of an example of something which could hold things up.
Another outside possibility is Green and his agent are waiting until the conclusion of minicamp to see if Green could be more in line to be the starter this season. After getting work in with the Steelers, Green might have a better feel for if he will gain more playing time his first year than what some may expect. If this is the case, he may be trying to get whatever stipulations he can get.
So what items could Green still be negotiating? According to former agent Joel Corry of CBS Sports in an article published in May about the rookie wage scale, there is very little to negotiate.
All contracts for draft choices are four years. Each pick in the draft has a salary floor and ceiling in the first year and over the four years of the contract. There are very few negotiable items with rookie contracts anymore. The salary components of a deal are restricted to signing bonus, base salary, roster bonus, reporting bonus, workout bonus and select incentives. The type of salary escalators and incentives that used to be responsible for salaries skyrocketing at the top of draft are prohibited under the rookie wage scale. A majority of picks only have signing bonus and base salaries in their deals.
An extremely important aspect of these deals is the first year salary cap number (also known as the rookie pool number) because it helps determine the overall value of a contract. The first year cap number or rookie pool number consists of the player’s prorated amount of signing bonus and the rookie minimum base salary, which is $660,000 in 2021.
The maximum annual increase in each of the four years of a deal is 25 percent of the first year cap number. To illustrate this concept, 2020 fourth-overall pick Andrew Thomas’ cap numbers were limited to a $1,470,254 increase in each year of his deal because his first year cap number was $5,881,016. Since all of these deals have minimum base salaries in the first year, the remainder of the contract is derived within these constraints.
Based on the math, the salary cap hit for Kendrick Green is known for the next four years. The only question is whether the remainder to make up the number is in the form of a base salary, or some other type of bonus.
Often, players and their agents are waiting to see how the contracts play out of those in similar draft positions. When it comes to Kendrick Green, who was selected with the 87th pick in the draft, there are only two players from pick 75 through 105 of the third round who have signed their contracts and have their financials available according to overthecap.com. Those two players are 82nd pick Dyami Brown of the Washington Football Team and 89th pick Nico Collins of the Houston Texans.
Although there could be a number of factors determining why Kendrick Green has not signed, the fact hardly any of the players drafted in a similar spot to green should help Steelers fans feel much better about the situation. Additionally, there is still plenty of time to get Green under contract before training camp.