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Sources: Disclosure of rookie scale formula by NFLPA nearly blew up settlement

Carolina Panthers Training Camp

SPARTANBURG, SC - JULY 30: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers throws a pass during training camp at Wofford College on July 30, 2011 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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Football returned on Tuesday, featuring an unprecedented string of deals done in an ultra-compressed time frame. An accidental disclosure by the NFLPA has contributed to the madness, by expediting the process of getting draft picks under contract.

But that came after the blunder nearly blew up the brand-new labor deal.

According to multiple sources, the NFL and the players agreed when crafting the rookie wage scale that the slot-by-slot formula would be kept confidential, and that agents and teams would know only the total rookie dollars allocated by team. This approach would make the process similar to past years, when the CBA utilized a rookie salary cap, which provided teams with limited money for all rookies but no restrictions on how it would be divvied up.

Despite a new name and far fewer dollars to go around, the same concept applies. Teams get a total amount that can be paid to all rookies, and the teams can decide which draft pick will get how much of the money.

Previously, the pick-by-pick formula used to determine each team’s rookie salary cap never had been disclosed to agents or teams. This year, in the first season of the new rookie wage scale, it was.

As best we can tell, a low-level employee at the NFLPA inadvertently sent the formula out to agents. The agents initially were confused by what they had received. When some started to rely on the formula when negotiating deals, the league became aware of what had occurred.

The sources, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the issue, told PFT that the league responded by accusing the NFLPA of breaching the settlement agreement, and threatening to scrap the deal. Cooler heads quickly prevailed, and the league decided to remedy the situation by sending the pick-by-pick formula to all teams.

Thus, every agent and every team have a comprehensive list of the year-one rookie allocation, the total rookie allocation, and the year-one minimum allotment for every single pick in the draft. As a result, the deals are being done for nearly the exact numbers specified in the pick-by-pick formula, making a simplified process even more simple.

“The deals are taking five minutes to do,” one agent told PFT on Saturday afternoon.

For example, the formula that has been disclosed to the agents and the teams indicates that the total four-year value of Cam Newton’s contract as the first overall pick should be $22,025,500. The actual number? $22,025,498.

Though the information has made the process easier for everyone, it has limited the ability of some agents to negotiate a larger chunk of the per-team allocation. Since the new wage scale isn’t technically a firm slotting process, some agents could finagle extra money for their clients, even if it may come at the expense of one of the team’s other draft picks.

Thus, the speed of the process in 2011 has been fueled both by the sense of urgency and by the ease with which the teams and the agents can get the deals done, given the inadvertent disclosure of the pick-by-pick formula to everyone involved.