Why Zack Moss remains the Bills' only unsigned draft pick
Zack Moss remains the Buffalo Bills’ only unsigned draft pick, more than a month after the former Utah running back was selected 86th overall in the 2020 NFL draft.
But there’s little urgency to get a deal done.
And even less reason to worry.
“The conversations between the Bills and our camp have been extremely cordial,” Moss’ agent, Jamal Tooson, told The Buffalo News. “We both are extremely confident that a fair deal will be reached. However, the third round is unique because there is a tremendous amount of flexibility when it comes to compensation beyond Zack’s signing bonus at stake.”
Moss, a full participant in the Bills’ virtual offseason workouts, is not an outlier among his leaguewide peers. As of Sunday, only seven of 42 players drafted in the third round, including compensatory picks, have signed their rookie contracts, according to spotrac.com.
And on the surface, the third round doesn’t appear to be an outlier, either. Only two first-round draft picks have signed; six in the second round; eight in the fourth, despite negotiations for those rookie contracts being far more straightforward.
“The third round is the only one with an actual negotiation over money,” said former NFL agent and CBS Sports salary cap expert Joel Corry, who attributes the slow pace of signings this year to the coronavirus pandemic altering the offseason schedule.
Eighteen teams have yet to sign a single draft pick, per spotrac. Four others have signed just one.
The New England Patriots are the lone franchise to have signed its full draft class, while Buffalo is the only team that’s one signing away.
The specific holdup, as it pertains to Moss and third-round picks in general, relates to compensation above minimum salaries, Tooson and Corry explained, which for rookie contracts is capped by what’s known as the “25% increase rule,” per the collective bargaining agreement.
All contracts for drafted players last four years, and in each year of his deal, Moss will receive at least the minimum base salary for his experience level as established by the CBA, which amounts to a total of $3,295,000.
Here are the annual minimums:
Adding Moss’ projected signing bonus – $914,417, per spotrac – brings his total minimum compensation to $4,209,417 over four years.
But Moss doesn’t have to settle for the minimum. In each year of his deal after the first, his annual base salary can increase by up to 25% of his total year-one rookie salary.
The sides are negotiating that percentage.
It is standard practice for players drafted in the first two rounds to receive the full 25% boost, Corry said, while players drafted in rounds 4 through 7 receive nothing extra.
For Moss, it could mean up to $402,906 in additional earnings over the life of his rookie contract.
There are two ways to arrive at this figure.
Both require calculating his year one rookie compensation of $838,604.25 ($610,000 minimum base salary plus $228,604.25 prorated signing bonus) and taking 25% of that number to determine his maximum allowable annual increase in base salary, which is $209,651.06.
For simplicity, let’s round that down to the nearest dollar.
Adding that amount each season after the first reveals Moss’ maximum possible base salary each year:
2021: $819,651 ($610,000 plus $209,651), which is $39,651 above the minimum $780,000, as stipulated by the CBA
2022: $1,029,302 ($819,651 plus $209,651), which is $134,302 above the minimum $895,000
2023: $1,238,953 ($1,029,302 plus $209,651), which is $228,953 above the minimum $1,010,000
The maximum base salary available to Moss then is $3,697,906 over four years.
The minimum is $3,295,000.
The difference of $402,906 is negotiable income.
The second way to arrive at this figure – and a shortcut to figuring out the max deal – is by multiplying Moss’ first year earnings ($838,604 rounded down to the nearest dollar) by 5.5, the ratio between his rookie year compensation and the total rookie compensation pool as laid out by the CBA.
This reveals his maximum contract: $4,612,323 over four years, including his signing bonus.
Again, his minimum compensation: $4,209,417 over four years ($3,295,000 base, plus signing bonus).
The difference is $402,906.
The parameters for an eventual agreement, which will set a precedent for next year, will be informed by the deals for players drafted immediately preceding and following Moss’ selection.
Patriots linebacker Anfernee Jennings, selected just after Moss with the 87th overall pick, inked a four-year deal worth $4,596,871, including a signing bonus of $903,180, according to spotrac.
The 14 players drafted immediately ahead of Moss remain unsigned.
“There’s no scenario or circumstance to where it doesn’t get done,” Tooson said about Moss’ contract. “It’s going to get done. Now it’s just a matter of time. There’s no rush.”