With the Cincinnati Bengals holding their first Training Camp practice this Friday (yes, this freaking Friday, baby!), there's a likelihood that we'll start seeing the final four draft picks sign this week. Well, three I suppose, presuming Andre Smith doesn't sign before Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory returns from his streetcar education out West.
Rey Maualuga and Chase Coffman "could be signed as early as Monday, Tuesday at the latest" writes Carlos "Big C" Holmes (we're still wondering what the "C" stands for... hopefully Carlos). While there's still no word on Michael Johnson, whom linebackers coach Jeff FitzGerald compared his potential to Adalius Thomas, Big C did note that there's absolutely no progress on the Andre Smith front.
As of this posting, only four first-round draft picks have signed with their respective teams. None higher than quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez. In that regard, no real news. While the ceiling has been set, the Bengals are likely waiting on Oakland to reach an agreement with wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. That way, they can set a lower proposal during negotiations because they'll know the "floor". Smith's agent Alvin Keels will likely bulk searching for something closer to the ceiling, which is at least $50.5 million with $28 million guaranteed -- Sanchez's deal.
What Oakland gives Heyward-Bey in total money will likely weigh heavily with what the Bengals are willing to offer, while the guaranteed money will be something close to what Keels demands for his client. In the interest of settlement between two sides that could be stubborn during negotiations, low total money with more guaranteed money would seem to me to be the best compromise.
Here's a kicker. If the Raiders sign Heyward-Bey to a deal less than Vernon Gholston's $32.5 million with $21 million guaranteed, then there's a good chance that the Bengals are emboldened to offer Smith something less than what last year's sixth overall draft pick received. The result will be an even more prolonged holdout. The Bengals could reason that their draft pick isn't a franchise quarterback; a position that reasonably sees an increase in money based on the importance of the position. Furthermore, they have added leverage in Anthony Collins, who started at left tackle last year holding his own against the league's better pass rushers. With Collins, there isn't a panic to sign Smith immediately, feeling that a prolonged holdout wouldn't hurt them as much, hoping that Keels caves.
We do know that once training camp starts with no deal in place, the team and Keels will use the media to favor public opinion -- something agents and players generally win.