Around this time last weekend, of the 259 players selected in the 2023 NFL Draft, 256 had signed. Of the three who remained without a contract, two of them were a couple of the first and second round picks for the Seattle Seahawks. The biggest name was, of course, fifth overall pick Devon Witherspoon, but second round running back Zach Charbonnet remained unsigned as camp approached as well.
With the overall financial picture for draft picks laid out by the rookie wage scale, there is a limited amount of negotiation that takes place when it comes to rookie contracts compared to free agent contracts or extensions. Most of the negotiations revolve around salary guarantees, offsets and bonus payout timing, but in spite of the fact that the process of signing drafted players to their initial contract has been greatly simplified, when a second round player remains unsigned until just before camp starts, it is going to cause headaches for some fans. That said, with Charbonnet now under contract for the next four seasons, fans can focus their attention elsewhere, especially given the specifics of the contract Charbonnet signed.
Per Aaron Wilson of KPRC2, the contract includes a $2M signing bonus, which will pro rate against the cap over the next four seasons at a rate of $500k per year, and will therefore carry base salaries and cap hits as follows:
- 2023: Cap Hit: $1.25M (Base salary: $750k, signing bonus proration: $500k)
- 2024: Cap Hit: $1.562M (Base salary: $1.062M, signing bonus proration: $500k)
- 2025: Cap Hit: $1.875M (Base salary: $1.375M, signing bonus proration: $500k)
- 2026: Cap Hit: $2.187M (Base salary: $1.687M, signing bonus proration: $500k)
The 2023 and 2024 base salaries are guaranteed, in addition to the $2M signing bonus Charbonnet receives, giving him a total of $3.8M fully guaranteed of the total contract of $6.876M.
It’s rookie contracts like this, for running backs who are able to step in and contribute nearly immediately early in their careers, that suppress the market for veteran running backs like Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts, who is reportedly in the market for both a new contract and a new team.