July 30, 2009

Heyward-Bey's contract raises the roof

Seventh overall pick last April, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey from Maryland, has signed his rookie deal with the Oakland Raiders.

It includes a 20% increase in guaranteed money over the seventh overall pick from 2008, Saints DT Sedrick Ellis. That amount of jump is big. It's not titanic, it's not paradigm-shifting, but it is significant. Defense tackles are well paid too, just ask Albert Haynesworth, and it is not attributed to Heyward-Bey's position of wide receiver.

So how does this affect the Saints? It raises the bar for what it takes to sign a first round pick this year, never a good thing for any team. The Saints at 14 may end up feeling the affects of this deal seven picks away.

This deal is far more painful for the teams in the top 10. The Bengals, for example, may be looking at a lengthy absence from Andre Smith, the sixth overall pick. Michael Crabtree, a receiver taken 10th overall, will want to get as close as possible to Heyward-Bey's numbers. Jeremy Maclin, the third receiver taken down at 19, may have just benefitted as well.

Ofcourse, nobody benefits from a first round pick missing camp. When it comes to production on the football field few rookies, except for maybe runningbacks, can afford to miss the reps and learning experience of training camp. In a time of recession and record unemployment, the decision to wait out training camp for more money won't resonate well in any city.

But that's just the kind of thing we may be looking at in New Orleans.

Malcolm Jenkins' agent Ben Dogra personally represents four unsigned first round picks as of right now: Jenkins, Rams OT Jason Smith, Redskins LB Brian Orakpo, and Maclin.

The two sides, according to a reporting in the Times-Picayune, only started preliminary negotiations last Friday, six days before day. That is not foolhardy planning but a resignation by both sides that Jenkins' contract won't be a trendsetter - it will be a follower. The two sides will eventually decide that the contracts of the picks surrounding Jenkins have bracketed in the numbers sufficiently that there's too little to gain by waiting or haggling.

Which contracts should Saints fans keep an eye on? The two picks on either side of Jenkins are Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno, Orakpo, Texans LB Brian Cushing and Chargers LB Larry English.

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