Rookie wage scale streamlines, slots contracts for Colts’ draft class

Quenton Nelson (center) with Colts GM Chris Ballard (left) and head coach Frank Reich (right) on April 27, 2018.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The next phase of the Indianapolis Colts’ offseason work unfolds Friday with a three-day rookie minicamp.

More than 50 players are expected to be on hand at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, including 11 draft picks, 10 undrafted players signed May 1 and dozens of players invited on a tryout basis.

When it comes to the draft class, what will be missing – again – is anything resembling anxiety regarding their rookie contracts. Credit the NFL’s rookie wage scale, which essentially is a slotted budget within the larger salary cap. It has eliminated bloated contracts, primarily for players taken at the top of the draft, and virtually eliminated rookie holdouts.

Anyone else remember 2004 and Bob Sanders? The Colts selected the Iowa safety April 24 with the draft’s 44th overall selection. He ended up signing his rookie deal Aug. 29, the day after the Colts’ third preseason game. Sanders was the last of the 255 draftees to agree to terms.

Following the April 27-29, 2017 draft, general manager Chris Ballard and his negotiating staff had the Colts’ eight draft picks under contract by May 19.

Another expedited process should be expected. Here’s a look at the projected four-year contracts of the Colts’ 11 draft picks, according to overthecap.com. The value of the contracts and accompanying signing bonuses reflect an increase of approximately 7 percent over the players selected at corresponding slots a year ago.

  • G Quenton Nelson (round 1/6th overall): $23,888,912 with a $15,453,752 signing bonus. Last year’s 6th overall pick, safety Jamal Adams of the New York Jets, received a fully-guaranteed four-year deal worth $22,258,808. It included a $14,328,224 signing bonus.
  • LB Darius Leonard (round 2/36): $7,247,783; $3,351,132 signing bonus.
  •  G Braden Smith (round 2/37): $7,193,688; $3,311,772 signing bonus.
  •  DE Kemoko Turay (round 2/52): $5,218,404; $1,875,204 signing bonus.
  • DE Tyquan Lewis (round 2/64): $4,366,054; $1,255,312 signing bonus.
  • RB Nyheim Hines (round 4/104): $3,184,548; $724,548 signing bonus.
  • WR Reece Fountain (round 5/159): $2,737,200; $277,200 signing bonus.
  •  RB Jordan Wilkins (round 5/169): $2,701,240; $241,240 signing bonus.
  •  WR Deon Cain (round 6/185): $2,625,636; $165,636 signing bonus.
  •  LB Matthew Adams (round 7/221): $2,561,584; $101,584 signing bonus.
  •  LB Zaire Franklin (round 7/235): $2,547,056; $87,056 signing bonus.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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