For the past several years, rookie holdouts have become non-existent. As reported by Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, though, negotiations with third-round picks are starting to become a little bit interesting. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe corroborated this, pointing out that as of last Friday, third-round picks were signing at a much slower pace than the other rounds:
As of [last] Friday afternoon, 206 of 253 draft picks had been signed (81.4 percent), but only 17 of 35 third-rounders (48.6 percent), by far the lowest percentage of any round.
A few more third-round picks have signed since then, but the stats apply to the Cleveland Browns in particular. The club has signed 10 of their 14 draft picks in this year's class. Of the four unsigned draft picks, three of them are third-round picks: QB Cody Kessler, LB Carl Nassib, and OL Shon Coleman.
Although I searched the Collective Bargaining Agreement myself and can't quite find the language that allows it, Volin adds that third-round picks have the flexibility to negotiate the range of their base salaries, whereas all the other rounds are locked in:
All drafted players have a slotted signing bonus, but the base salaries can be negotiated. This year, once again, all first- and second-round picks have gotten the maximum base salaries. Picks in Rounds 4-7 get minimum salaries. But third-rounders don’t have a set number.
To illustrate his point, he says that the 87th overall pick has a total contract value that is $25,000 less than what the 88th and 90th picks received. There is supposedly some form of "additional compensation" that the third-round picks can negotiate, up to a certain percentage. Salary cap expert Jimmy Halsell says that quarterbacks drafted in the third-round typically negotiate 100% of this additional compensation, which is something Kessler should be angling for too:
While rd3 deals lack tot value cadence; since '11, 6 of 7 3rd rd QBs has gotten 100% of "Add'l Comp" avail to them. Hope Jacoby knows this.— Jimmy /J.I./ Halsell (@SalaryCap101) May 5, 2016
In a recent podcast, Over the Cap noted that it's advantageous for quarterbacks to push for 100% of their additional compensation in negotiations. The reason being is that a Proven Performance Escalator (PPE) exists for picks in rounds 3-7 (i.e. no Browns earned one for 2016, as explained here).
Players who see the field often will get a nice bump in salary at the end of their rookie deal, negating the need to have negotiated a higher percentage of additional compensation several years earlier. The PPE is based on the number of snaps a player sees, though, and unless you're Russell Wilson, third-round quarterbacks often sit for a few years. Therefore, if they know they will not have the chance to earn that PPE, they have some leverage to ask for more money up front.
In the end, there aren't expected to be any holdouts for the Browns' third-round picks. However, this should provide a little insight as to why the ink hasn't been applied to paper yet.