Yes and no. Yes, because we have been here before with Michael Crabtree’s holdout last season. I thought it was a matter of time before Crabtree would sign and that didn’t happen until week five of the season. No, because none of the 2010 draft picks selected in the first-round are signed either. When signing draft picks the NFL uses a slotting process with wherever a player is picked he gets so much money and the next guy get a little less and so-on. A dumb practice yes but the NFL might have a new rookie salary cap that would take away the slotting process. This is much needed however the new collective bargaining agreement that is in negotiations that could include a rookie salary cap is also a reason why no picks have been signed. What I have found to be the biggest obstacle for teams is the option bonus.
Option Bonus: Signing bonuses and option bonuses are almost the same thing. A signing bonus is paid to the player when the contract is signed. An option bonus is similar to a signing bonus, but paid at a later date. They do not directly count against the cap in that season. Instead the full amount is divided evenly over the remaining length of the contract or 5 years, whichever is less. This is called the amortized bonus. When a player is cut, the amount of this amortized bonus remaining to be applied to the cap is immediately due to the cap. If a player is cut before June 1, it counts toward the current season. After June 1, it counts toward the next season. This is called the “dead cap hit.” There is something called the “Deion rule” to prevent spreading too much into uncapped seasons, it really hasn’t been relevant until recently, but it is going to severely limit signing and option bonuses to new contracts in the near future because of the owner opt out.
Most option bonuses are paid out in the second year of the deal. With no collective bargaining agreement for the 2011 season NFL teams are acting as if no season will be played at all in the second year of the contracts signed in 2010. If there is a lockout teams do not want to pay big payroll costs so they are looking at new ways to pay out the bonuses over longer periods of time and the players/agents want it sooner in the contract like in the second year. When first overall pick Sam Bradford signs with the Rams the rest of the rookies should fall in-line and sign.
Back to the 49ers draft picks. The most important upgrade the 49ers did this past off-season was the offensive line. With picks at 11 and 17 in the first-round the 49ers selected tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati. The 49ers success on offense this season will somewhat depend on Davis and Iupati. How quickly they learn Jimmy Raye’s offense and adapt to playing in the NFL has to do with them being in training camp from the start. Holdouts will not help Davis, Iupati or the 49ers. Hopefully before long the top-ten draft picks will sign with Davis and Iupati right behind them. Niner rookies report to training camp on July 30.