Many of the NFL teams have already signed all of their rookies to contracts, and some did so prior to their team’s respective rookie workouts or camps. That isn’t the case for the Buccaneers, however, as Devin White and Jamel Dean still remains unsigned as of my writing this. There are a few possible reasons why they have chosen not to sign yet, including the team’s current salary cap issues, how much of their contracts will be guaranteed, and simply not having bothered to get around to it.
It isn’t as if it’s a pressing issue to get the rookies signed immediately after drafting them, as they have until August 7th to get them signed. Assuming a player doesn’t sign prior to the rookie camps, they are able to sign a participation agreement that allows them to take part in the camps without fear of an injury impacting their contract negotiations.
With that said, it is still entirely possible that White or Dean opt not to sign their rookie contracts, as we’ve seen it in the past with Eli Manning and John Elway, though it is extremely rare and highly unlikely. It’s always a risk when drafting a player that they may choose not to sign, but doing so only winds up hurting themselves in this day and age.
Assuming one of them opts not to sign, they can not play, it’s that simple. The Buccaneers would retain their rights, which prohibits them from not only signing with another team, but due to the new language in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, they’re also now prohibited from playing in Canada. The player then has the option to sit out the entire year and re-enter the NFL draft the following year, but they will have a year of being inactive, which can hamper their draft stock, along with every team knowing they have a reputation for refusing to play unless they get their way.
Losing a drafted player to a refusal to sign does not result in the team getting any type of compensation, but they save the money they would have used to sign the player they drafted. Beyond saving a couple of million dollars, a team also now has to fill a void that they thought had been addressed, which can be done so by simply trading the rights to sign the player to another team as we saw with Manning and Elway. The rights to the player are able to be traded for another rookie, a veteran, or even draft picks if the teams agree, but there aren’t many teams willing to take on the headache of a player unwilling to play, unless they’re the Oakland Raiders or the New York Jets.
While money can certainly play a part in the player choosing not to sign, the amount of the contract is scaled and capped which prevents a drafted player from holding out for an insane amount without having to prove themselves prior.
There’s no reason to think that White or Dean will hold out and refuse to sign, but the possibility is always there. We’ve seen it from veteran players rather recently, and given the Buccaneers have had some rather bad luck lately, would you really bet against the Bucs having another bout of bad luck? Neither player has given any indication that they’re the type of player who would hold out, which is one of the reasons we drafted them, but as the Bucs have proven this offseason, the NFL is still a business above all else.