Rules regarding unsigned picks

For no particular reason, this evening I decided to peruse one of my favorite reference books. Let me tell you, it’s a real page-turner.

It’s called the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, 2006-2012.

Again, there was nothing that inspired this bit of reading, other than my quest for knowledge. But I did find myself focusing on a certain chapter entitled, “Article XVI, College Draft.”

Here are some of the excerpts – which I took the liberty of translating into plain English. You might find some of this interesting:

–Section 4. Signing of Drafted Rookes:  (b) if a drafted rookie has not signed a contract 30 days before the first Sunday of the regular season (this season, that’s Aug. 14) . . .

. . . (i) the club that drafted the player may not trade the player’s negotiating rights or any signed contract for that initial year.

(In other words, there is no such thing as a sign-and-trade in the NFL for a rookie draft pick who has not been signed by Aug. 14. The new league year begins March 1, so the player could be traded after that date of the following year.)

UPDATE: The trade period begins March 5 in the new league year.

. . . (ii) the club that drafted the player is the only club that can sign the player until the day of the draft in the subsequent year, at which time the player is eligible to be chosen by any team other than the club that drafted him in the initial draft.

(In other words, the team that drafted the player has a full year to sign the player to a contract. And, unlike a punt that hits the video board at the new Cowboys Stadium, they are prohibited from a do-over.)

Section 4, continued: (c) If drafted rookie has not signed a contract by the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season (that’s Nov. 17th), at 4 p.m., New York time, the player shall be prohibited from playing in the NFL for the remainder of the league year.

(In other words . . . well, that’s pretty self-explanatory . . . other than the fact the NFL refers to “New York time” rather than the correct label of “Eastern time zone.”)

–Section 5. Other Professional Teams: (a) If a drafted player signs a contract with, plays for, or is employed by a professional football team not in the NFL during the 12-month period after he was drafted, then the NFL club that drafted him retains exclusive negotiating rights for three years after the initial draft.

(In other words, don’t expect the UFL’s California Redwoods to be adding a well-known rookie wide receiver from Texas Tech this season.)

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One last thing, the most commonly asked question over the past month has been: If a player does not sign before the next draft, does the team receive any compensation? The answer I’ve given all along is “No, there are no mulligans in the NFL draft.” But my new answer is: “Yes, team ownership does not have to pay the money it would’ve taken to sign him.”

The real answer is that the league does not award any compensation, but the 49ers have ample opportunity to work out compensation on their own in the form of a trade with another team for the rights to the unsigned player. The trade can occur at any point from March 5 until draft day. So they hold the draft rights for a full year, during which time they have ample time to sign him or trade him.

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