“What I want to know is why Pickett hasn't signed his rookie contract yet?”
That phrase, or at least a similar one, became more popular in recent weeks whenever a BTSC article about any Steelers quarterback was published.
Obviously, the concern was over Kenny Pickett, the Steelers' first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, remaining unsigned with training camp fast approaching. The concern was of course put to bed on Thursday when news broke that Pickett had finally inked his four-year rookie deal.
Hooray!!!!!! But, why, though? I never understood the angst in the first place. Rookie holdouts are mainly a thing of the past, and they have been ever since the 2011 CBA made them that way. In 2011, rookie contracts—regardless of the position or round— became slotted, meaning, the seventh player in the first round gets a specific amount that is less than the sixth player chosen but also a specific amount that is more than the eighth player selected. It’s the same way for the seventh player drafted in the seventh round, even if the dollars and cents are on a much lower scale.
The length and amount of a rookie deal cannot be negotiated. Here is a 2019 article from Andrew Brandt, an NFL insider and former VP of the Green Bay Packers, that talks about what can be negotiated in a rookie deal; if you didn’t feel like clicking on the link, I will just say that, well, not much can be negotiated, at least not much that would lead to many holdouts. For example, the timetable of a rookie’s signing bonus—when he gets paid—can be negotiated, but the actual amount, just like the base salary, is already slotted in.
Back in the old days, when the sky was the limit for NFL rookies, holdouts were more frequent, and the fears of fans were more understandable. Rookie deals were all about what the team was willing to work out with a player’s agent—regardless of position or when a player was drafted.
It was even worse when there was an AFL, USFL (the legit one) or even the short-lived WFL (World Football League). In fact, if such a league existed in 2022, the NFL would probably lose out on superstar college players at such an alarming rate that the owners would likely attempt to change the language of the CBA so they wouldn’t be limited by what they could give to rookie draft picks.
Unless or until the NFL faces stiff competition again in the form of a viable rival league, a young football prospect will simply have to bet big on himself and hope that he can become a valuable commodity once it’s time to negotiate that all-important second contract.
With that in mind, why would any NFL rookie—including a quarterback trying to do all that he can to establish himself—hold out of training camp or even into the regular season?
It just wouldn’t make any sense from a football and even a business standpoint.