The reports started a few days ago that the Browns and Brandon Weeden were at an impasse in contract negotiations. The issue at hand appears to be the 4th year guarantee. The new NFL slotting rule for rookies has worked pretty well overall, but the fourth year guarantee has become the biggest point of contention. As Mary Kay Cabot pointed out in her article, it was the main issue that held up Phil Taylor’s deal as the 21st pick a year ago. Brandon Weeden was the 22nd pick, so what’s the big deal? It seems that from 21 to 22 is where the precedent is currently being set, in a way.
As for the picks below Clayborn, the 21st pick, Phil Taylor of the Browns, has a contract similar to those mentioned above, while the 22nd pick (Anthony Costanzo, Colts), 23rd pick (Danny Watkins, Eagles) and 24th pick (Cameron Jordan, Saints) just gave up their quest for the fourth year and have agreed to have only the first three years guaranteed.
The Browns, it appears, truly are at the forefront in terms of setting precedent with Brandon Weeden. Technically, the Browns already could be viewed as the team giving up ground a year ago when they finally gave in for Phil Taylor at 21.
Is it possible that in league circles they are being pressured to hold the line on the guaranteed fourth year? Are the Browns truly holding the line because they happen to have picked a 28-year-old QB who isn’t a typical rookie age? There are certainly more questions than answers right now and only the Browns and maybe Weeden’s representatives know for sure.
If it was up to me, I would just go ahead and give him the fourth year. Generally speaking, quarterbacks are their own category in the draft anyway. Everyone, from media, players, agents and team executives expect there to be some kind of small premium for that position in terms of compensation. That being the case, go ahead and get Weeden signed up for a fourth year. If some other team wants to fight it out with their 22nd pick in a future year, let them have at it. NFL teams are already ahead of the game with the new rookie wage scale.
Consider that Tim Tebow was picked 25th in 2010 and has a very complicated incentive-laden contract. His agent would tell you it is worth up to $33 million. It isn’t worth anywhere near that much, but consider that Tebow’s cap hit number is $3.072 million for 2012 and $2.085 million for 2013. It could escalate thereafter if he hits playing time marks, etc. Upon being traded he was paid $6.275 million. Obviously I think the money was worth it because Tebow knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs, but that’s neither here nor there.
Brandon Weeden is quite obviously going to get the nod to be the starter in Cleveland. He is a mature guy and probably isn’t going to sweat a lot of the details and business wrangling like another rookie might. Still, every guy has his breaking point. Hopefully the Browns don’t hold the line too hard to the point that it’s counter-productive. The rookie rules are now in favor of teams. To pretend like they have to battle to the ends of the earth on a fourth year for a first-round draft pick is counter-productive.