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Browns top rookies Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward remain unsigned

Cleveland Browns rookies Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward are two of seven NFL rookies yet to have signed their rookie contracts.

NFL: Cleveland Browns-Press Conference Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns rookies Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward are two of seven NFL rookies yet to have signed their rookie contracts. The Browns and their prized pair of top 4 picks are running out of time to avoid holdouts as the team will begin mandatory training camp practices this Thursday. Rookies and veterans are all required to report to Berea on Wednesday.

On Sunday, notable remaining unsigned rookies Saquon Barkley and Mike McGlinchey inked their deals, both including large signing bonuses. In fact, Barkley’s four-year deal is worth $31.2 million with $20 million guaranteed, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. That makes him the fourth-highest paid running back in the NFL before he ever plays a snap.

As WGN Radio’s Adam Hoge pointed out, to this point only rookie linebacker Roquan Smith’s delay is costing his team the rookie’s presence at training camp.

Here’s a list of the seven remaining rookies have yet to sign:

  1. Browns, QB, Baker Mayfield (Pick No. 1)
  2. Jets, QB, Sam Darnold (Pick No. 3)
  3. Browns, CB, Denzel Ward (Pick No. 4)
  4. Bills, QB, Josh Allen (Pick No. 7)
  5. Bears, LB, Roquan Smith (Pick No. 9)
  6. Steelers, S, Terrell Edmunds (Pick No. 28)
  7. 49ers, WR, Dante Pettis (Pick No. 44)

These kinds of contract disputes rarely linger long enough to end up affecting players’ chances to participate in camps, let alone risk them missing any game action. Rookie contracts in the NFL are already “slotted” and pre-determined by the NFL rookie scale, so the main hiccups to these deals are usually related to offset language and signing bonus pay timing.

Offset language refers to conditional contractual terms relating to players retaining their guaranteed rookie salary, even if released, along with any salary they obtain from another team following their release. It usually comes into play when a player is injured or released in the fourth year of their rookie deal, one year before a team must choose whether to pick up the player’s fifth-year team option. Offset language helps teams release players without them being allowed to “double dip,” so to speak.

Several rookies chose to forego hiring an agent this year, which seems to be a growing trend given the cookie-cutter NFL rookie salary negotiation process. You can bet Mayfield and Ward’s agents are working extra hard to prove their worth by getting the most out of the Browns prior to their clients signing on the dotted line.

There’s no need for concern, yet, but there may be some upcoming discussions we’ll need to have in the coming days if these two star rookies remain unsigned as Wednesday draws closer.