The New England Patriots‘ drafting strategy received harsh reviews. That’ll happen when you reach on multiple picks and select two more running backs despite returning Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson and James White.
Of course, these raw reactions mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. At the end of the day, the Patriots’ 2022 draft class will be graded on how they perform on Sundays in their individual roles. Let’s not jump to conclusions.
Speaking of the team’s new running backs, Pierre Strong Jr, who some scouts view as New England’s next third-down back once White moves on, became the latest Patriots draftee to sign his rookie contract on Thursday.
Rookie salaries are pre-determined based on draft positions. As a mid-fourth round pick, Strong Jr. inked a four-year, $4.3 million deal.
It’s big the Pats got this done when they did, as three of their 10 picks remain unsigned following minicamp. Now, they can turn their attention to signing these players, who are some of the most recognizable names from their 2022 class.
Which Patriots 2022 draft picks haven’t signed their rookie contracts?
This is NOT meant to spread panic, but the Patriots still haven’t worked out deals with first-rounder Cole Strange, second-rounder Tyquan Thornton and fourth-round quarterback Bailey Zappe.
Though not ideal, there’s no reason for fans to worry. Agents are simply trying to get their clients the biggest bag possible. Yes, rookie salaries are predetermined, but agents can still negotiate the fine details, as the maximum annual increase over the four-year contract is 25 percent of the first year cap number.
The rookie wage scale is a complicated system. From an agent and player perspective, there’s not much haggling that can be done. Strange, Thornton and Zappe will presumably all get signed within the next couple of weeks. If you remember, Mac Jones didn’t sign his rookie deal until well after minicamp on July 6 last offseason.
For now, the Patriots’ main concern should be creating cap space. Per team cap expert Miguel Benzan’s latest calculations, the Strong agreement dropped the team’s cap space to a lowly $142,280. In other words, Bill Belichick and Co. don’t have enough resources to sign their remaining draft picks.
It’s unclear how the Patriots plan to create enough cap space to sign Strange, Thornton and Zappe, but we wouldn’t count on them borrowing from next year’s funds. Expect a contract restructure or potential release/trade to be announced in the coming days.
Whatever the case, there’s no competitive advantage that’s gained from signing rookies immediately following the draft. As long as Strange, Thornton and Zappe are signed before camp, which is well over a month away, that’s all that really matters.