As part of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, the league (finally) took control of rookie contracts (mostly top-10 players), which were spiraling out of control. As the first overall draft pick in the 2010 NFL draft, quarterback Sam Bradford signed a six-year deal worth $78.045 million with $50 million guaranteed. Quarterback Cam Newton, the former first overall draft pick in the 2011 NFL draft, signed a four-year deal worth $22.025 million -- all of which was guaranteed -- after the current CBA was implemented.
In addition to the controlled salary structures for rookies, the CBA also built a fifth-year option into the contracts for all players selected in the first round during (and after) the 2011 NFL draft. Teams can execute this fifth-year option but it comes with a cost; anyone drafted in the top-10 will receive compensation similar to that of the transition tag and anyone drafted outside of the top-10 will receive the average of the third through 25th highest paid players at that their respective position.
Cincinnati pulled the trigger on A.J. Green last year. Because he was selected fourth overall, he will receive $10.176 million in 2015, the transition tag number for wide receivers that year.
The question this year is regarding offensive guard Kevin Zeitler and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. If Cincinnati wants to exercise the fifth-year option, they'll have until May 3, 2015 to officially submit a letter to that player -- telling them that the fifth-year option was triggered. Because both players were selected outside of the top-10, their compensation will be the average salary of the top-25 players at their respective position -- excluding the two highest-paid players.