Will the new rookie wage scale affect teams trading into the top 10 on draft day?

Posted Feb 22, 2012

This year's draft will be the first one that takes place with the new rookie wage scale already in place. Gone are the days of paying $50 million guaranteed to unproven players.

Cam Newton, the first pick in last year's draft, signed a four-year, $22 million deal with the Panthers.

Sam Bradford signed a six-year, $78 million contract with $50 million guaranteed as the first-overall pick of the Rams in 2010.

In the past, there was never much movement from teams outside the top of the draft trying to get in because the financial obligations didn't make sense.

One would expect a lot more movement now that the financial obligations on those teams selecting high in the draft have been substantially reduced, but that won't necessarily be the case.

"I think the top of the round is much more ripe for the pickings than it was in the past because the contracts were such a burden to the top-of-the-draft clubs that no clubs wanted to get up there," said Lions president Tom Lewand.

"That barrier to entry in the top of the draft was so big. With the new deal, you've just lowered that barrier for entry financially. What's going to happen is the market dynamics are going to shift.

"The barrier to enter financially isn't there anymore but now, what's the asking price from those clubs who are drafting up there?"

The asking price is going to be greater because the picks are now more valuable.

During last year's draft, the rookie wage scale wasn't in place but teams knew it was on the horizon and drafted with the understanding it would be in affect when the new collective bargaining agreement was signed.

The Jaguars moved up from pick 16 to 10 to select quarterback Blaine Gabbert. To facilitate the move, the Jaguars had to include a second-round pick in the trade.

According to the 2010 trade value chart, which puts a number value on every pick in the draft and is used by most teams as a trade guide on draft day, the Jaguars should've only had to give up their third-round pick and maybe a late-rounder to move up six spots.

With a wage scale in mind, selecting Gabbert 10th-overall cost the Jaguars $16 million less in salary than it cost them to choose Tyson Alualu No. 10 the year before, which made the pick more valuable and more costly to pursue.

The Lions have proven they're not afraid to move up in the draft. They tried to move into the top five last year to select LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and offered the Cardinals their No. 13 pick as well as the team's second- and fourth-round picks.

The Cardinals decided to draft Peterson themselves, though, and he was a Pro Bowler as a rookie.

Lions fans shouldn't expect the same scenario this year. Moving from No. 23 to the top of the draft would essentially cost the Lions their entire draft.

The Falcons moved up from No. 27 to No. 6 last year to draft receiver Julio Jones. It cost the Falcons their 27th pick and second- and fourth-round picks as well as their first- and fourth-round picks this year.

That's a pretty good preview to what it would take for the Lions to move into the top of the draft this year.

"Financially, (the new wage scale) will change the dynamic of the draft, but whether or not it ultimately results in more trades remains to be seen because we don't know what those clubs are going to ask for in return," Lewand said.