What’s the Deal with All the Unsigned Rookies?

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What’s the Deal with All the Unsigned Rookies?

Chicago Bears

Writing about Cole Kmet’s future got me to thinking about how the Chicago Bears have yet to officially sign either of their two second-round picks.

Heck, they haven’t signed ANY of the picks from their 2020 NFL Draft class. What gives?

Traditionally, Chicago is one of the first teams to knock out deals for its rookies. Save for Mitchell Trubisky’s rookie deal (which didn’t come down until the start of training camp) and Roquan Smith (whose lengthy holdout extended well into the summer), the Bears have done well to get their guys in the building and have their contracts done. That’s not the case this year.

What might be more concerning is that this seems to be the norm across the league. July opened with 26 first-round picks who hadn’t yet been signed by their respective clubs. That includes first overall pick Joe Burrow, Lions cornerback (Jeff Okudah), and both of the Vikings’ selections (wide receiver Justin Jefferson, cornerback Jeff Gladney). I’m sure there is a reason why this is the case, but the latest from Albert Breer raised my curiosity.

A player agent anonymously reached out to Breer and told him that a team executive “leveled with him recently, and said they wouldn’t allow for a deal to be finalized because the owner feared the season could be canceled (if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens) and he didn’t want to pay out cash he may not be able to recoup.”

Clearly, that’s not an issue in Chiefs camp, where they just agreed to terms on an earth-shattering extension with quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But that’s also a very different story.

Of course, this isn’t limited to draft picks.

Breer goes on to highlight the example of cornerback Trae Waynes, who agreed to terms on a three-year deal worth $42 million with the Cincinnati Bengals. But note the terminology here. Although the two sides “agreed to terms,” a contract hasn’t been signed, because Waynes hasn’t completed a physical, as NFL team facilities remain close and the Bengals aren’t allowing their team doctor to check out players off campus. This technically leaves Waynes without a contract a little more than 20 days to go before camp is scheduled to open.

This isn’t something the Bears have to worry about, as all of their reported free agent deals have been finalized and signed. However, I still find it curious that the team has yet to sign any of its draft picks. Again … what gives?

The COVID-19 pandemic caused much of the sports world to press pause in March, but the NFL remained on its main track for the most part because the league was in the midst of its offseason. But in recent weeks, we’ve seen the league make some significant tweaks with a late July training camp start, cancelation of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, and trimming of the preseason to two games.

And now, we have the possibility of the pandemic throwing NFL contracts for a loop.

For what it’s worth, rookies have still been able to participate in virtual team activities throughout the spring and summer. Certainly, that could be helpful in the long run as they get acclimated to their new surroundings in the only way it is possible to do so now. But with training camp around the corner, the time could come for rubber meeting the road and contracts getting signed. In the mean time, we play the waiting game. And if you’re a sports fan, that’s a game you’re far too familiar with playing in 2020.

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.