Atlanta Falcons Desmond Trufant throws a pass during a NFL Play 60 event during the NFC Rookie Symposium at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility. (Reuters)
FLOWERY BRANCH — With just a few days remaining before the Falcons take the practice field, rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant, the team’s first-round draft pick, remains unsigned.
Both sides remain optimistic about reaching a deal before the team starts practice Thursday. The players are scheduled to report today.
“The talks are ongoing with the intent to get it done prior to camp,” Doug Hendrickson, the agent representing Trufant, said during an interview with the AJC on Monday. “He played extremely well when he was there (this offseason). He wants to be there and they want him there.”
The team has a long-standing policy of not commenting about ongoing negotiations, but clearly it wants to have Trufant in camp on time.
Under general manager Thomas Dimitroff, the Falcons haven’t had a rookie holdout since 2008, when left tackle Sam Baker missed part of the team’s first practice while his deal was being finalized and faxed to the league office.
Hendrickson is the senior client director for Octagon football, a firm that represents four other Falcons and has had a good working relationship with the franchise.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, rookie contracts are normally slotted into position based on what was paid out in previous years. However, Trufant was selected at a difficult spot.
Problematic for both sides is how to negotiate guaranteed money based on the deal that offensive lineman Anthony Castonzo, the 22nd pick in 2011, received from Indianapolis and the deal that Brandon Weeden, the 22nd pick last season, received from Cleveland.
In 2011, 81.6 percent of Castonzo’s four-year $8 million deal was guaranteed. Last season, 92.9 percent of Weeden’s four-year $8.083 million deal was guaranteed. Some analysts believe that Weeden likely received a “premium” deal because he plays quarterback.
The negotiating parties must reach a common ground on Trufant’s fourth-year money and guarantees.
The Falcons made a major draft-day trade with the St. Louis Rams to move up seven spots in the first round to select Trufant with the 22nd overall pick. To switch positions in the first round, the Falcons gave up a third- and sixth-round pick to the Rams.
The Falcons also selected cornerback Robert Alford in the second around.
In addition to Trufant, Octagon represents current Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud, linebacker Stephen Nicholas and cornerbacks Dominique Franks and Peyton Thompson.
Trufant is expected to compete for the starting right cornerback position.
Reporting late could hinder Trufant’s development and perhaps allow nickel back Robert McClain or Alford to jump in front of him.
Over the offseason, the Falcons let three of their top five cornerbacks leave via free agency in Brent Grimes (Miami), Dunta Robinson (Kansas City) and Christopher Owens (Cleveland).
With all 32 NFL teams set to report to camp by the end of this week, 18 of the 32 first-round picks are signed.
Also, Duke quarterback Sean Renfree, one of the Falcons’ three seventh-round picks, remains unsigned. He had surgery on his shoulder after the season and is awaiting medical clearance.
Rookie defensive end Stansly Maponga, who’s recovering from left foot surgery in March, will be available at the start of camp, but will likely be limited the first two weeks.