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The St. Louis Rams and second-round draft pick Janoris Jenkins still have one major hurdle to clear before reaching contract terms. Basically, is Jenkins, a talented cornerback who had been projected to go much higher in the NFL draft, willing to bet on himself?
The Rams have borrowed on a theme from numerous other contract negotiations by asking for safeguards in Jenkins' rookie contract. According to two sources close to the situation, the Rams have proposed a deal to Jenkins' agent Malik Shareef that features the signing bonus being split into four equal parts over the course of the contract – protection against Jenkins not panning out with the club.
So far, Shareef, who didn't return multiple messages for comment, has declined to accept the deal that is expected to be worth $5 million, including a $2 million signing bonus. According to sources, Shareef is concerned about how he will be viewed by other potential clients (and how he'll be criticized by other agents) for taking such a deal.
Signing bonuses are commonly paid in a lump sum, the case with Rams quarterback Sam Bradford two years ago, or a two-year installment, which was the outcome with St. Louis first-rounder Michael Brockers this year. However, there are instances in which clubs opt to stretch out the signing bonus, which the Rams did with first-rounder Robert Quinn last year, or uniquely structure the deal.
If the example of New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez and longtime agent David Dunn is any indication, Shareef shouldn't be worried.
Hernandez, a Florida teammate of Jenkins', failed at least one drug test in college and watched his stock drop going into the 2010 draft. Subsequently, he had to take a highly restrictive contract when it came to guarantees. The flipside is that Hernandez, who has had no reported problems since joining New England, was given a chance to make up the difference and then some.
Hernandez, the 15th pick in the fourth round that year, received a four-year deal that included a signing bonus of only $200,000. That was a huge drop from New York Jets running back Joe McKnight, who was taken one pick earlier. McKnight received a bonus of $501,000 as part of his four-year deal.
What the Patriots did with Hernandez was give him better payouts on roster bonuses as long as he was a member of the team (either on the 53-man roster or on injured reserve). Ultimately, McKnight stands to make a total of $2.29 million at a minimum over four years. Hernandez can make $2.37 million, a total that would exceed the $2.34 million contract of former Ram Mardy Gilyard – the No. 1 pick of the fourth round in 2010, who is now with the Philadelphia Eagles.
So far, Hernandez has received all the bonuses in his deal.
"[Hernandez] knew what he was going to have to take when he got drafted by the Patriots," a source said. "That was the deal, but it really came down to this: Do you want to bet on yourself?"
Jenkins, kicked out of Florida by current coach Will Muschamp after being arrested twice for marijuana possession early in 2011, initially ran into a snag with the Rams because of a dispute over a business manager. The team has since backed off its demands to stipulate a specific financial advisor, but is exploring other ways to protect its investment. In addition to the trouble at Florida, Jenkins was considered a risky draft pick because of the financial ramifications of having four children with three women (a fourth woman claims to have another child with Jenkins).
Still, some observers believe Jenkins has the potential to exceed what Hernandez has done in his productive young career. Jenkins, who finished his college career at North Alabama, was considered a potential top 10 talent by some analysts before the draft and fell to No. 39 overall.
"What the Rams have asked for is fair," a source said. "Yeah, it's not cool if you don't get your money right away, but if he believes in himself and continues to do the right thing, he's going to get his money."
A Rams source said the team has even offered to give Jenkins interest on money as it's paid. The team simply wants a safeguard and believes it will get it.
"Do you really think the kid is going to go back in the draft over this?" the source said. "After all he has been through? Look, we want to pay him and we want to pay him fairly. We're not trying to cut the money way down or anything like that. We just want to keep him focused and this seems like a good way to do it."
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