Yesterday, the Dallas Cowboys signed the tail end of their draft haul to four-year contracts. WR Danny Coale, TE James Hanna and LB Caleb McSurdy all inked similar deals that will pay them base salaries of $390,000, $480,000, $570,000 and $660,000. The higher draft picks that command considerably more, including first-rounder Morris Claiborne, should be getting inked in the days ahead.
In year's past, the Dallas Cowboys were always one of the last teams to start to sign their drafted rookie class. They would wait until the final week before training camp to open negotiations with player agents, probably for a variety of reasons. For one, the delay allowed other teams to set the market around them; with virtually all other draft picks signed, there was an market set for draft positioning and player position. Also, the immediacy of camp placed pressure on the agents not to let their clients fall too far behind and risk burying themselves on the depth chart.
This season, the new rules changed many things. The NFL allowed their teams to take 90 players through the first two weeks of the preseason as opposed to the 80 man limit. It's quite possible that Dallas didn't sign their draft picks so they had additional slots on their 80 for all of the UDFAs that they've made a habit of finding gems within the ranks. With roster limits pushed up to 90 and draft picks counting to that limit regardless of being signed or not, that advantage (or need) is now gone.
So with all that said, why is Dallas still one of the last team's to start signing their picks, even if they are 45 days ahead of normal schedule? Well, they didn't have the cap space until recently. Remember, Dallas was docked $5 million in salary cap space for violating the "spirit" of the 2010 cap, even though there was no salary cap; because that would be collusion (cough, cough).
Also, the release of Terence Newman earlier this offseason was designated as a June 1st cut so that his remaining prorated signing bonus could be split over two seasons. It freed up over $6 million in 2012 space, but not until the actual date of June 1st, regardless of when the release happened.
Be on the lookout over the next few days for announcements of the rest of the class coming into the fold.