As of today there are 12 days left until the Pittsburgh Steelers report to Latrobe for training camp. While the primary talk revolves around whether or not restricted free agent Mike Wallace will sign his tender and report on time, it has almost been forgotten that first round draft pick, guard David DeCastro, has yet to be signed.
Personally I am pretty surprised by this as I thought for sure the deal would be done by now, especially after the New England Patriots drew the line in the sand in regard to first round players with four-year fully guaranteed contracts when they signed defensive end Chandler Jones in the late part of May. His contract was a four-year deal worth $8.173 million and included $7.42 million guaranteed, of which $4.384 million was a signing bonus.
About a month ago, Andrew Brandt noted that offset language could be the hold up with the rest of the unsigned first rounders, especially the top overall eight selections, who currently remained unsigned as well. Brandt further explained offsets in an ESPN podcast. “Teams want language in the contract, these are fully guaranteed contracts, saying that if they cut the player at some point and he signs another player, they are offset their guarantee,” Brandt said. “So they cut a player, he signs for a million dollars somewhere, that million comes off what they owe.’”
ESPN NFC North blogger Pat Yasinskas stated in the first part of June that when the Carolina Panthers signed No. 9 overall pick Luke Kuechly, that his contract did not contain any offset language. So could that be the hold up with the lower end of the first round players that remain unsigned as well? It\’s possibly that that is part of the reason, but likely not all of it.
While the total amount of the contracts for the remaining unsigned players is pretty much set in stone, thanks in part to the slotting system, it can only be offset language or amount of the fourth year of the contracts that are holding things up right now. Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden, who also remains unsigned, figures to be the player above both DeCastro and Detroit Lions tackle Riley Reiff that is holding things up right now. The reps for both DeCastro and Reiff want to make sure they do not leave anything on the table in regard to a portion of the fourth year money that is guaranteed. So until Weeden signs, both Reiff and DeCastro will likely remain unsigned.
Weeden updated his contract situation at the end of June while at the NFL Rookie Symposium PLAY 60 Youth Football Clinic in Berea, Ohio. “What’s the politically correct answer here?” Weeden said, when asked about his contract situation. “I wish it was done, but I don’t know. It’ll get done. We’re working. It takes two sides, though.”
Because of his age, the Weeden camp is reportedly pushing very hard to have all four years fully guaranteed, thus trying to erase the line in the sand that the Patriots drew with Jones. If the Browns decide not to budge on that, Weeden will most likely have to settle for the combination guarantee/roster bonus that Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor, the No. 21 overall pick last year, received. Regardless, the deal should total out at around $8.1 million.
Reiff would then be up next to the plate, and hopfully that deal gets done very quickly after Weeden comes to terms. If not, we could be headed for a DeCastro late arrival to training camp.
The Steelers have had a good run of having their first round picks signed and in camp on time over the years. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was the last first rounder drafted by the Steelers to technically be late when he signed four days after workouts began in 2004. Center Maurkice Pouncey cut it close in 2010 when he didn\’t arrive in time to complete the traditional camp-opening run tests, but he didn\’t miss any practices.
There is no need to worry about DeCastro not knowing the playbook, but he only was able to attend the rookie camp and final mini camp because of Stanford graduation requirements. He is expected to be the Steelers starting right guard this season though and thus needs as much practice time as possible to gel with his new line-mates.
While it is still too early to panic, time is ticking away. Keep your fingers crossed that Weeden gets his deal done very soon or DeCastro could wind up being a hold out to start camp, something I wouldn\’t have imagined happening a few months ago.