The 2011 NFL Lockout is coming to an end, which means the league year will finally open up and allow teams to begin conducting the business of signing players to their roster. Friday will mark the official opening of the veteran free agent market, but tomorrow (Tuesday) teams will be able to start signing their 2011 draft picks and also start signing undrafted rookie free agents. Draft picks are one of the keys to building long term sustainable success, while rookie free agents can provide some basic depth and an occasional diamond in the rough.
The Oakland Raiders 2011 NFL draft class consists of eight players from the second through seventh rounds. The Raiders gave up their first round pick in the Richard Seymour deal, but still managed to come away with a potentially solid draft class. Whether you're talking about Stefen Wisniewski, Taiwan Jones, Chimde Chekwa or any of their other picks, the Raiders could find some solid depth added with this draft.
Starting Tuesday, the Raiders will look to begin signing these picks under the new rookie wage scale. This was one of the more significant changes in the new NFL collective bargaining agreement. It will primarily affect the higher priced first round picks, but will have some impact across the board.
The new collective bargaining agreement will provide for $874 million in overall compensation for rookies in 2011, increasing with the cap. The contracts will need to be four years in length with an team option fifth year for first round picks. Second through seventh round picks get straight four year contracts and undrafted rookies can sign three year deals.
For the first round picks, the option year has to be exercised after the third year and is guaranteed for injury when exercised and for and injury if the player is on the roster at the start of the fifth season. For top ten picks, the option year is the salary of the average of the top ten players at the players' position. For picks 11-32, the option year is the salary of the average of the top 3rd through 25th players at the draft pick's position. For the Raiders, this will not be an issue in 2011 given the trade for Richard Seymour. For Raiders fans it is simply something to consider in future seasons.
For picks in rounds three through seven, there will be a proven performance escalator clause. This salary escalator is based on a player getting 35% playing time in two of the first three seasons or an average of 35% over three years. The escalator increases the fourth year salary to the Right-Of-First-Refusal Amount, which is $1.2 million in 2011 but increases with the salary cap.
The changes to the rookie salary system should cut down on the number of holdouts we see before the start of the season. The Raiders will have the opportunity to start signing their rookies Tuesday morning at 7am pacific time. They can also sign rookie free agents at that point as well. Here are the Raiders eight draft picks:
Rd 2, Pick 16: Stefen Wisniewski, C
Rd 3, Pick 17: Demarcus Van Dyke, DB
Rd 3, Pick 28: Joseph Barksdale, OL
Rd 4, Pick 16: Chimdi Chekwa, DB
Rd 4, Pick 28: Taiwan Jones, RB
Rd 5, Pick 17: Denarius Moore, WR
Rd 6, Pick 16: Richard Gordon, TE
Rd 7, Pick 38: David Ausberry, TE