At first glance, the four-year contract signed by St. Louis rookie defensive tackle Michael Brockers late last week conforms perfectly in terms of total value, allocation and signing bonus to the numbers allocated by the NFL for the No. 14 overall slot in the 2012 draft. However, the $9.52 million deal includes a few details that could make things downright devilish for some unsigned selections in the first round, where agreements haven't quite kept pace with the warp-speed negotiations that have marked draft deals in general this spring. Most notably, the Brockers contract does not include so-called "offset" language for any of the four seasons. That might seem like just some esoteric element to many fans. But as recently noted by The Sports Xchange, it has become a major component and bargaining chip for agents and team negotiators. And it is probably the biggest stumbling block preventing deals from being completed that might break the logjam at the top of the initial round. Although 15 of the 32 first-round picks had reached contract terms as of midday Wednesday, none of the top eight players has signed. The inclusion of offset language permits a franchise to realize cap and salary reductions if it releases a player and he signs with another club during the course of his original contract. For instance, if a club releases a player, even on a guaranteed contract, and he signs with another team, the original club can reduce the money owed to the player by the amount of his new deal. With no offset language, the player could be cut, sign with another club, and still collect the full amount due him from his original team, in addition to the salary from his second club. In essence, the absence of offset language allows a player to "double dip." The absence of offset language in Brockers' contract was originally noted in NFLPA rookie salary documents obtained by The Sports Xchange, and was subsequently confirmed by agent Albert Elias, who negotiated the contract. Of the 15 contracts signed so far in the first round, only those of Brockers and Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly (No. 9) do not include offset language. Being able to cut a deal without offset language was a significant victory for Elias, a veteran agent who was representing his initial first-rounder, particularly given the point of the draft at which Brockers was chosen by the Rams. The deals for the two players signed between Kuechly and Brockers, cornerback Stephon Gilmore of Buffalo (No. 10) and Arizona wide receiver Michael Floyd (13th), include offset language. Agents for most of the top eight prospects, and officials from the teams involved, have acknowledged to The Sports Xchange that the battle over offset language has been a major point of contention in their discussions. Where things could really get interesting are with the negotiations for defensive tackles Dontari Poe (No. 11) of Kansas City and Philadelphia's Fletcher Cox (No. 12). Both rookies play the same position as Brockers, were drafted in a similar area of the first round, and by teams that often employ offset language for first-rounders. As noted, Floyd, chosen only one slot ahead of Brockers, had an offset written into his contract with the Cardinals. St. Louis also had the 14th overall choice in 2011, defensive end Robert Quinn, and included an offset in three of the four years of his contract. The only season with no offset was the third year of the deal, in 2013. Brockers also received a more favorable payout schedule from the Rams than did Quinn a year ago. The signing bonus for Brockers, $5,365,092, will be paid out in two equal shares, the first up front, the other next March. Quinn's signing bonus of $5,362,585 will be paid in three installments. A former LSU star, Brockers will receive base salaries of $390,000 (for 2012); $822,818 (2013); $1,255,636 (2014); and $1,688,454 (2015). As with all first-round contracts, the Rams have an option for a fifth season. In most other areas, Brockers' deal is close to that of the Quinn contract, with the total value representing a bump of just about 1 percent, and the signing bonus an increase of .0004. There are, though, some key differences, the offset language most obvious, and that definitely could impact other first-round negotiations.
- Michael Brockers