The Oakland Raiders are 4 days away from the start of training camp in beautiful Napa Valley. Yes, it’s that time of year when the coaches and players get together to train and study in preparation for the season. That moment they (and we) have all been waiting for with an amazing amount of anticipation.
Why, then, are there two draft picks still unsigned? Third rounder Tony Begstrom and Fifth rounder Juron Criner have yet to sign their rookie contracts. According to Adam Caplan in an article on The Sideline View, Bergstrom and Criner are the lowest draft picks without a contract. The Raiders aren’t alone, though. Caplan tweeted that there are 8 other teams with unsigned picks, 5 of which have 2 or 3 players that have yet to sign. They also have the advantage of being one of the last teams (along with the Cowboys) to report to camp. Despite all of that, it still doesn’t make a lot of sense to us laymen.
If this was five years ago, we might not even bat an eyelash at this. There were so many details to iron out such as contract language, bonus money, etc. Not the least of those details was trying to figure out what each player was worth. That all went out the door with the brand spankin’ new CBA (collective bargaining agreement). That agreement includes a limit to how much a rookie can make. In fact, it is extremely detailed. To the point that money has almost nothing to do with rookie contract negotiations.
If cap space was an issue, it certainly isn’t an issue any more. Tyvon Branch signing a long term deal, and Louis Murphy’s trade gave the team over $6 million to work with. Even before those transactions, that explanation had little merit. According to CSN Bay Area, the language in the CBA allows a maximum cap hit of $516,504 for Bergstrom and $426,140 for Criner. That’s less than $1 million, so throw that argument out the window.
The only thing close to an explanation is something ESPN’s Business Analyst, Andrew Brandt has been talking about on his Twitter feed, and in a recent article, which is “offset language.” This will generally apply to higher draft picks, but it may be that Bergstrom’s and Criner’s agents are trying to exclude such language from their contracts. As Brandt states, “signing bonus, salaries, (and) cap number” are almost non-negotiable because of the CBA. With rookies having so few options, it could be that they’re holding out for any little thing they can get.
In the end, it also could just be much ado about nothing. It may be that Reggie McKenzie and his front office staff simply put them on the back burner as they worked on the Branch and Murphy transactions. Right now they also have to worry about adding 3 more players to the roster to fill out the 90 available spots (with the trade of Murphy, the team now has 87 players on the roster). I would expect both rookies to be signed by Friday. This gives them plenty of time to report to camp on Sunday.