The St. Louis Rams' rookie class is due report for training camp on Tuesday. Of the ten players selected in the 2012 NFL Draft, two of them have yet to sign contracts, cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson. A Tuesday report on the team's official website said that Johnson could have a deal within 24 hours.
The issue with Johnson's contract along with the handful of other players picked at the top of the third round is the slotting system. In the rush to get deals done last season, the first year of the new rookie wage system, teams ended up signing draft picks at the top of the first round to deals that paid them smaller salaries than players picked later in the round.
Texans wide receiver DeVier Posey, the fifth player picked in the third round, signed a deal on Monday. Posey is the highest pick from that round to have a deal, and the dominoes should start falling in line pretty quickly with his deal done.
Contract negotiations for first-round picks this season have largely hung up over the issue of offset money and fifth-year guarantees, and the issue around Janoris Jenkins' contract with the Rams is a bit more complex.
Jason Cole from Yahoo reported last week that the hold up over Jenkins' deal is the Rams' desire to portion out his signing bonus, giving the Rams some insurance should his off-field issues prove to be too much of a distraction. Typically, signing bonuses come in one lump sum (though they are prorated against the cap).
Per Cole's report, Jenkins' agent was less than welcoming to the idea, partially out of fear for future business. The Patriots used a similar approach with Aaron Hernandez, Jekins' former Florida teammate, as well as the Rams and Robert Quinn.
Quinn's contract and his July 10 DWI arrest would appear to give the team a little more leverage in getting the deal done with Jenkins, since it raises the specter of off-field problems at a time when the NFL has been besieged with around 30 offseason arrests. Jenkins doesn't have much leverage to begin with. If he does not sign a deal, he has to wait until the 2013 NFL Draft to get another shot, raising the question of where he would get income during that stretch.
On June 14, following the Rams' minicamp, head coach Jeff Fisher was asked about contracts for Jenkins and Johnson. Here is what he said at that time:
"I'm not going to put a timetable on it, but I don't anticipate any problems."
Probably smart not to put a timetable on it, and there were a few problems. Every year, no matter who the player is or what the situation is, panic sets in with deals still waiting to happen hours before training camp starts. But it always seems to get done.