Quarterback Andrew Luck, the top overall choice in last week's NFL draft, will receive an initial four-year contract from the Indianapolis Colts that includes a signing bonus of $14,518,544, the exact amount awarded Cam Newton, the No. 1 selection last year.
NFLPA documents obtained by The Sports Xchange show that Luck's salary cap charge for the No. 1 slot, as determined by the rookie wage scale negotiated in the CBA extension between the league and the union last summer, is $4,019,636. That is slightly more than the $4,004,636 salary cap charged to the Carolina Panthers for Newton's deal in 2011. But the difference is actually taken up by a modest increase in the minimum first-year base salaries for rookies.
The minimum rookie salary rose by $15,000, from $375,000 to $390,000.
As was the case in 2011, most, if not all, of the 2012 rookies will sign contracts that include a minimum base salary, in order to maximize signing bonuses. All 32 of the 2011 first-rounders signed contracts featuring minimum rookie-year salaries.
Newton signed a four-year, $22,025,498 contract with the Panthers last season. Luck's deal with the Colts is expected to be only marginally larger.
Little wonder that Colts owner Jim Irsay recently noted on his always colorful Twitter account that an agreement with Luck should be "done swiftly," and that it "shouldn't be a difficult process."
In fact, that might be the case for most rookie negotiations, with the wage scale leaving little wiggle room for franchises or player agents. Through Friday afternoon, five players chosen last weekend, including second-round wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (Chicago) and Stephen Hill (New York Jets), had already reached accords on their first league contracts.
Designed in part to curtail lengthy holdouts, and perhaps reduce the amount of acrimony in bargaining, the rookie wage scale appears to be doing just that.
Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, the second overall choice, will receive a $13,799,344 signing bonus, according to the slotted salary cap charge of nearly $3.9 million. The No. 2 choice in 2011, Denver linebacker Von Miller, received a signing bonus of $13,773,000 and had a cap of $3.818 million.
With the overall rookie pool rising less than 1 percent for 2012, increases are likely to be negligible over the contracts awarded in the corresponding 2011 slots. The same is true for signing bonuses.
Luck's deal will be part of a rookie pool of $8,572,646 awarded the Colts. The Sports Xchange reported the rookie pool allocations for this team earlier in the week. The Colts have a total of $47,149,553 to spend on rookies. As is the case with the rookie pool, that is second in the league, behind the Cleveland Browns.