Collusion concerns could speed up rookie signings Posted by Mike Florio on July 2, 2010 11:00 AM ET On the surface, the clouds are gathering for some potentially lengthy first-round holdouts. Though a rookie salary pool still applies in the uncapped year, the fact that teams have not spent significant money on unrestricted or restricted free agents could make agents try to ask for even more money in round one, in the hopes of getting from the teams some of the money they didn't spend in March through June. Moreover, most NFL observers believe 2010 will be the last year of the "free money." So why not blow it out and get as much money as possible during the last dance? Then there's the fact that teams just don't seem to be spending, possibly to make a point to the players as the labor deal enters its final months of existence. But we've recently detected a sense that things won't move as slowly as feared when it comes to getting first-rounders signed. With NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith declining to dismiss our recent report that the union is exploring a collusion claim, the case would likely encompass every shred of evidence that potentially supports the notion that the league has deliberately curtailed player expenditures in the hopes of squeezing the players. "We'll take a look at the objective information, the amount of player movement, the [restricted free-agent] tenders and all of the other anecdotal information we have available to us as well as other information and evaluate it and make a decision," Smith recently told Alex Marvez of FOXSports.com. "It's an issue." Another issue that could move things along is the fact that the specific value of the rookie deals signed in 2010 won't matter when the time comes to recruit the next crop of incoming players, since a rookie wage scale would make moot the details of the contracts negotiated by the agents. Moving forward, the only real factor will be the ability of the agent to help position the client to be taken as high as possible in the draft, via the quality of the agent's pre-draft training and preparation -- and his or her overall ability to sell the player to teams with the top picks. Arguably, the NFL realizes that a slow pace of rookie negotiations could bolster a collusion case, and that a quick pace could dispel the notion that teams are tapping the brakes in the hopes of breaking the union. Indeed, the league has posted at NFLLabor.com an item trumpeting the fact that the pace of signings in 2010 has increased 17 percent over last year at this time. That said, no first-round pick has signed in 2010. There's a vague belief in league circles that at least one first-rounder could sign soon, possibly over the holiday weekend or Monday at the latest. We'll be tracking it all weekend. Sure, it's a holiday. But every day is a holiday when your job entails sitting at computer and working a telephone while writing and talking about the greatest sport on the planet. So if you're bored at the barbecue, step into the air-conditioned comfort and see what we've been up to while you've been ignoring us.