The Patriots announced the signing of first round pick defensive lineman Dominique Easley, marking the conclusion of the team's rookie draft class negotiations. Easley had taken additional time to sign his contract due to disputes surrounding guaranteed money. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald said that the dispute was not about injury protection.
We will have more information as time passes, but my interpretation of the negotiations comes down to verbiage. As Easley is coming off his second ACL injury, the Patriots reasonably want to protect themselves from future injury. However, the new CBA that was created to protect the teams adds a negotiating floor for the players; there's a standard contract that the player and their agent can point to as a rebuttal.
I'm sure the Patriots wanted to offer Easley a contract that would guarantee him more money than his standard draft position, in exchange for playing time incentives, meaning that Easley would only receive more money if he saw the field. The length of the negotiation is probably linked to this general discussion.
All conjecture at this point, but we'll see when information surfaces.
I made some rough predictions early into the off-season; I didn't do terribly. Here's a genereal breakdown of all the contracts:
1. DL Dominique Easley - 4 years/$7.304mm; 5th year option
2. QB Jimmy Garoppolo - 4 years/$3.484mm
3. C Bryan Stork - 4 years/$2.697mm
4. RB James White - 4 years/$2.617mm
5. OT Cameron Fleming - 4 years/$2.521mm
6. OG Jon Halapio - 4 years/$2.343mm
7. DE Zach Moore - 4 years/$2.322mm
8. DB Jemea Thomas - 4 years/$2.313mm
9. WR Jeremy Gallon - 4 years/$2.268mm
Thus far in camp, it's looking like 4th round pick James White and 6th round pick Jon Halapio have been making the best impressions.
Easley hasn't had enough time, but will hopefully come on strong during the summer.
Garoppolo has been hot and cold and isn't (and shouldn't be) ready to be the #2. Ryan Mallett is essentially a lock to make the team, even though he's been injured and unable to practice.
Stork has been called out for dropped a few snaps and has had to take some extra laps of the practice fields. It's still possible he'll overtake incumbent Ryan Wendell as a starter, but Stork will have to work harder to take over the starting role.
White is a practice star thus far; showing sticky hands and the ability pick up the offense. Don't be surprised if he takes over as Shane Vereen's primary back-up, which was Brandon Bolden's role last season- and don't be surprised if he earns more time on the field. His progress could lead to an interesting development at the fourth running back spot.
The Patriots are using this off-season to add some versatility to Fleming's toolbox; he spent his time at Stanford at right tackle, so the Patriots are flexing him to left tackle to increase his value as a swing player. Marcus Cannon has been seeing time at left tackle, too, but Fleming will have to learn both roles to stick on the roster beyond this season.
Halapio is my dark horse to see the field as a starter on week 1. While he was a right guard at Florida, he spent time at left guard while Logan Mankins was sidelined. Halapio plays with a nasty streak and could challenge Dan Connolly for the starting role at right guard.
Moore and Thomas have generally been out of the spotlight as they're focusing on their special teams value to try and make the game day roster. It's far more likely that both of these players, with great upside, will try and stash away on the practice squad for their rookie red-shirt season.
Jeremy Gallon has been missing time and my belief as a non-doctor is that he'll come down with a case of the Foxboro Flu and be IR'd as a rookie.