Will the Pittsburgh Steelers have rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett signed prior to training camp getting underway? That should ultimately be the case, but in the meantime, however, Pickett, the 20th overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, is now one of just 37 league-wide selections that remain unsigned.
Pickens is the highest drafted player that remains unsigned and one of just two first round selections that has yet to autograph his rookie NFL deal. The other first rounder that remains unsigned is New England Patriots guard Cole Strange, the 29th overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.
In case you’re curious, the player that was selected after the Steelers picked Pickett, cornerback Trent McDuffie, signed his rookie deal with the Kansas City Chiefs back on May 6. That four-year deal that McDuffie signed totals out at $13,167,484 and is fully guaranteed. It included a signing bonus of $7,356,352.
The players selected ahead of Pickett in the 2022 NFL Draft, tackle Trevor Penning, signed his four-year rookie contract with the New Orleans Saints on May 12. That deal is reportedly worth $14,143,316 and is also fully guaranteed, including a $7,466,048 signing bonus.
Pickett’s slotted deal is expected to total out at $14,067,904 and include a signing bonus of $7,411,203. So, what is the holdup with him signing? While nobody knows for sure, the holdup might be related to offset language. An offset clause allows a team to reduce the guaranteed money owed to a player, when and if he needs to be released, by the amount of a new deal he might sign with another team.
With the newest CBA, there are very few items that are negotiable when it comes to rookie contracts. The two primary negotiating items, particularly at the top of each draft class, are the payment schedule of the signing bonus and whether salary guarantees will have any offsets attached. The language outlining the voiding of salary guarantees is also something that can and is negotiated.
The Steelers are still way more than a month away from starting their 2022 training camp so there’s no reason right now to think that Pickett will remain unsigned come late July. He’ll eventually sign and likely with time to spare. It will be interesting, however, to see if Pickett is ultimately the last 2022 draft pick to sign his rookie contract. I suppose that could ultimately be the case.