Obi Melifonwu entered Wednesday as the only second-round draft pick without a signed rookie contract. Later that afternoon, he joined the group.
The safety from UConn put pen to paper on a four-year deal at the Napa Valley Marriott, allowing him to join pre-training camp activities. Veterans report on Friday and camp’s first full-squad practice starts Saturday morning.
The pact took longer than the Raiders or Melifonwu had hoped. There's little room for fiscal movement in the rookie wage scale, but some contract language had to be hashed out before shaking hands.
Melifonwu is slotted to make $4,509,376 over the life of the contract, with a $1,419,544 signing bonus and a $819,886 base salary in 2017, per overthecap.com.
The Raiders have one draft pick left unsigned. First-round cornerback Gareon Conley hasn’t agreed on a deal, though it’s still likely that happens before the first full practice.
The Ohio State alum’s situation could be complicated by an ongoing investigation into a sexual assault allegation stemming from an April 9 incident in Cleveland.
Head coach Jack Del Rio said in a Tuesday radio interview he expected unsigned rookie contract issues to be resolved soon.
Raiders rookies have reported to Napa for some pre-training camp instruction. Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu are not among them.
This year’s top draft picks remain unsigned as activity ramps up toward the first full-squad practice on Saturday. Every practice, meeting or moment of instruction is important for young defensive backs expected to make an immediate impact.
It is, however, still early in the season preparation process. Head coach Jack Del Rio isn’t concerned about his first-round cornerback Conley or his second-round safety Melifonwu being away long term.
“These are issues that should get resolved shortly and they’ll join the team,” Del Rio said Tuesday in an interview with 95.7-FM The Game in San Francisco. “It’s one of those situations where, years ago, ...those were issues. Holdouts could last the whole camp and into the season. The structure is in place now (with the NFL’s rookie wage scale), and we expect these things to get resolved shortly and they’ll be getting their work in.”
There isn’t much wiggle room in rookie contract negotiations these days, which is why just four NFL draft picks remain unsigned at this stage.
Conley’s legal issues, however, could be considered complicating. The No. 24 overall pick was accused of sexual assault stemming from an April 9 incident in Cleveland.
The Cuyahoga County District Attorney’s office has said the investigation is ongoing. Conley’s lawyer did not return a call seeking comment.
There is no timetable to complete the process. Conley has maintained his innocence, and passed a lie detector test just before the draft. The Raiders have stood by their selection from the start, confident in their pre-draft research that Conley will be cleared of wrongdoing and be a productive member of the squad.
Del Rio said that’s still the case several months later.
The Raiders have a long, storied rivalry with Kansas City. It’s been a little lopsided of late.
The Chiefs have won five straight, including every meeting in the Jack Del Rio era. Those results helped funnel AFC West titles to Kansas City the last two years.
The Raiders hope to fair better in 2017. One new addition believes they will. Second-round safety Obi Melifonwu said the tides will turn during an Monday morning appearance on NFL Network.
“With all the guys we have this year, with everybody that’s coming back and with everybody we’ve added, our coaching staff and everybody that’s been really for the cause I think we can stop them,” Melifonwu said. “Actually, I know we can stop them.”
Melifonwu could play a part in that. They’ve struggled defensively against Kansas City, with major issues containing star tight end Travis Kelce. The Raiders hope his mix of size and speed can hinder tight end production. Odds are good he’ll be used in sub packages as a hybrid linebacker/safety to deal with tight ends and running back. Kelce will be one of the toughest coverage assignments of the season.
“Travis Kelce is a receiver in a lot of ways,” Melifonwu said. “His route stem is really good. He’s a guy that’s a vet who knows how to get open. I have my work cut out. It’s a challenge, but I love challenges. I’m looking forward to it.”