First deal suggests Titans plan to work quickly signing rookies

Monday, May 14, 2012 at 6:31pm

Early indications are that the lockout effectively eliminated the rookie holdout.

Among the significant changes to the way the National Football League does business that came out of last year’s work stoppage was a diminished and well-defined rookie wage scale. It removed much of the need for teams to negotiate with draft choices and, consequently, sped up the signing process.

The Tennessee Titans got rolling in that regard Monday when they announced 2012 fourth-round pick Coty Sensabaugh, a cornerback from Clemson, signed his deal. More than two months before the start of training camp he became the first of this year’s seven picks to sign.

“I’d say that’s the best thing about the new CBA for the rookies — there’s really not much wiggle room,” Sensabaugh said last week as negotiations on his pact neared completion. “All the deals are pretty much set in stone. That helps us get out here a lot quicker and earlier and learn faster, which hopefully will help us get on the field quicker.”

By the middle of last week, the Baltimore Ravens already had signed all of their 2012 draft class, and the San Diego Chargers had the majority of their top picks under contract.

Under the league’s previous collective bargaining agreement, teams were hesitant to sign their draft choices until they saw what others did. The fear was that someone might overpay based on what others agreed to with players drafted in the same range and it delayed most of the dealing until the final weeks before training camp.

“It’s kind of crazy because in the past I don’t think you even heard about contracts until July,” coach Mike Munchak said. “… It obviously seems like it’s not going to be as big a deal as it has been in years past. Even last year, once the lockout ended I think everyone was signed within a week.

“As a coach, you can’t imagine having any problems where you have a holdout going into camp. So that’s a great feeling that that system has changed.”

The Titans’ first-year players reported last Thursday for the team’s rookie orientation, which lasted through Saturday. Beginning Sunday, those players were free to work with veterans in drills run by their respective position coaches.

Sensabaugh joins a group of cornerbacks that includes four draft picks in the previous three years. He is the third cornerback over that span taken in the fourth round or earlier.

Theoretically, he is poised to fill the roster spot created by the free agent departure of veteran Cortland Finnegan.

“I’m kind of wide-eyed, but then with these coaches and these players it settles you down,” Sensabaugh said. “Everybody’s pretty cool. It’s a nice atmosphere.

“I’m glad to be a Titan.”