By Nick Shook
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Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, who didn’t miss OTAs, decided to take a more proactive approach to what he sees as a lack of opportunity for first-round picks. Shazier, the 15th overall selection in the 2014 draft class that also included Beckham and Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, believes the next collective bargaining agreement should allow for more wiggle room on rookie contracts.
“At the end of the day, if you’re playing at that level, you should be able to get that opportunity,” Shazier said, via ESPN. “At the end of the day, that’s between you and the team. If the team wants to do that, it’s great. … If you play at that level, you should be able to re-up whenever you want to.”
First-round selections sign deals that have a monetary value determined by a slotting system similar to that of the NBA, which was established with the league’s last CBA agreement. But those contracts also include fifth-year team options for the top picks, which can limit budding stars — or those already playing at a high level — from cashing in until later.
Second-rounders like Derek Carr are able to work out new deals after just three years based on the current system, and though it’s caused some offseason drama for the Raiders, they’ll be able to lock up their franchise quarterback a year earlier than Pittsburgh, or New York, or Los Angeles can do the same with their foundational pieces. The flip side, of course, is players like Greg Robinson, whose fifth-year option the Rams declined to pick up before dealing him to Detroit for a sixth-round pick. Sometimes these picks don’t work out, allowing for an out for teams after four years.
“Yeah, that kind of sucks,” Shazier said of the system. “Sometimes guys have to wait five years. Other guys don’t. But that’s what they agreed on in the past. Next time we’ve just got to do a better job of structuring what we want to do. At the end of the day, if you play at a high level, things should pan out for you.”
Shazier has had health issues and is likely more focused on a full and productive season on the field, but he’s also looking out for his draftmates and the league’s future new blood. Whether that spurs any change in the future, we’ll have to wait to see.