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2013 draft picks can sign new contracts after January 3 games

The news that the Texans recently met with the agent representing receiver DeAndre Hopkins served as a reminder that it’s time for the annual reminder that certain draft picks soon can sign new contracts.

Under the 2011 labor deal, draft picks can sign new contracts after the final regular-season game of their third year in the NFL. This means that all 2013 draft picks become eligible for new deals after completing their games on January 3. This encompasses players like Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah, Rams receiver Tavon Austin, Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardon, and Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert.

For undrafted players, new contracts can be given to them after the final regular-season game of their second year in the league. Which means that Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler and all other undrafted players from 2014 can receive new contracts.

Butler could become an interesting case study regarding undrafted players who become stars. Due to earn $600,000 next year, the Patriots could squat on him for 2016 and 2017, when he would be a restricted free agent. He’s not eligible for unrestricted free agency until 2018. Would he take now a deal that rewards him, but that doesn’t pay him at or near market value for the position he plays?

Since 2011 first-round picks became eligible for new contracts in early 2013, agents consistently have complained that teams wait too long to reward the best of the young players with new contracts. With the current rookie wage scale stripping the windfall away from unproven rookies at the top of the draft, the excess money should go to players who have shown through three (or in the case of undrafted players like Butler two) seasons that they deserve to get paid.

We’ll soon see whether teams are willing to reward the best drafted players from 2013 -- and the best undrafted ones from 2014.