Third-round picks haggling over '25 percent' rule

Len Pasquarelli, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Two weeks ago in this space, the Tip Sheet cracked the code for the logjam at the top of the first round, citing so-called "offset" language for the sticky stalemate that has kept the top eight choices in the draft without contracts.
Since then, several media outlets have caught on to the reason for the lack of movement, and this week Dallas chief operating officer Stephen Jones even publicly acknowledged that the battle over offset language was holding up an accord with first-round cornerback Morris Claiborne.
But there is a part of the draft, surprisingly in the third round, where the bloc of unsigned players is even bigger. As of Thursday night, none of the top nine players selected at the opening of the third round had consummated deals. So what gives?
Well, it's not offset language this time, because such a negotiating chip is foreign to the third stanza.
Instead, agents for players in the top nine of the third round are attempting to maximize the 25-percent rule on base salaries. And the teams have balked.
Also coming into play was a contract negotiated by Denver last season for its third-rounder, linebacker Nate Irving, the third pick in the round in 2011.
Irving got a signing bonus that was pretty well slotted ($695,000), but his overall deal fell well below what the slot should have been. Each of the nine players drafted after Irving outdistanced him in terms of total compensation and per-year average, and that aberration at the No. 3 spot in the round has caused problems.