The Seahawks have been gushing about Bruce Irvin’s speed, quickness and explosiveness since selecting the pass-rushing defensive end in the first round of the NFL Draft 12 days ago.
Who knew it would carry over to his contact negotiations?
Irvin became the initial first-round draft choice in the league to agree to contract terms on Monday, and that was only one-eighth of the story for the Seahawks. They also reached agreements with seven of their other nine choices from the April 26-28 draft: Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner (second round); Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson (third round); Idaho linebacker Korey Toomer (fifth round); Northwestern State (La.) cornerback Jeremy Lane and Kentucky safety Winston Guy (sixth round); and North Carolina State guard J.R Sweezy and Louisville defensive end Greg Scruggs (seventh round).
What’s the deal? The new rookie salary scale that was included in the CBA that ended last year’s 136-day lockout? The eagerness of this year’s draft class to reach agreements before the start of this weekend’s rookie minicamp? Superior work by vice president of football administration John Idzik, the team’s lead negotiator?
The smile that washed across Idzik’s face said it was a combination of elements that led to Monday’s rush of agreements.
“I’d like to go with the latter,” he cracked, before adding, “But there are a lot of factors at work, the primary one being the new CBA.”
It’s actually the second year of the CBA that ended the lockout, but last year everything seemed like it was done on the run – not to mention in late July and early August.
“So this isn’t the burn in, 2011 was,” Idzik said. “And a lot of the rookie deals are now structured a certain way. So there was a little bit of precedent for everyone to go off of – both from a league standpoint as well as a club standpoint.”
Idzik has been here before. It was in 1995, while working in Tampa. The Buccaneers had two first-round draft choices that year – defensive tackle Warren Sapp and linebacker Derrick Brooks, who would be voted to a combined 18 Pro Bowls. The Bucs had both players, as well as the rest of their draft class, signed by the second week in May.
“But that was highly unusual,” said Idzik, who’s in his 20th year of negotiating contracts in the NFL. “And that was a long time ago. That was before we were knee deep into the CBA and these rookies deals started to get very complex.”
Idzik again finds himself in the second week of May, and is optimistic that fourth-round picks Robert Turbin, a running back from Utah State, and Jaye Howard, a defensive tackle from Florida, also will agree or sign in time for the minicamp this weekend.
“To me, one of the most important parts is that the players are protected by their NFL contract,” he said. “So for them to be involved in minicamps and offseason rookie-development programs, it’s best that they’re under contract.”
The agents for these players must agree – or they would not have agreed so quickly.
“That really was the driving force,” Idzik said. “It’s mutually beneficial. Obviously, we get our draft choices signed. But, from their end, they’re protected under their contract. They don’t have to concern themselves with these lengthy negotiations we’ve had in the past.
“Now, it’s just all about ball.”
And the Seahawks have big plans for this draft class.
Irvin is expected to provide a needed pass rush off the edge opposite Chris Clemons in the nickel defense. Wagner will compete with recently acquired veteran Barrett Ruud for the starting middle linebacker job that opened when leading tackler David Hawthorne signed with the New Orleans Saints in free agency. It’s difficult for coach Pete Carroll to contain his enthusiasm when he talks about the potential and promise of Wilson, who initially will watch incumbent Tarvaris Jackson and free-agent addition Matt Flynn compete for the starting QB job. Turbin brings the physical style Carroll has been looking for to complement leading rusherMarshawn Lynch. Guy will get the chance to fill the third safety spot in the big nickel that allows the coaches to use the Pro Bowl tandem of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor is a variety of ways.
“So when these guys show up in Seattle, they’re signed and they’re 100 percent focused on what’s important,” Idzik said.
And that, of course, would be football. As Idzik pointed out, rookies are at a disadvantage anyway, because the veterans already have been in the league, and they’re already into Week 4 for the offseason program.
“If we can remove one real big mental element and just let them focus on everything to give them a chance to maximize their rookie season, that’s what we’re trying to do,” Idzik said.
And obviously have done.
“This is nice to have it done this quickly,” Idzik said.
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