TAMPA — If safety Mark Barron is not already the most valuable rookie for the Bucs, he's certainly high on the roll call.
But the first-round pick from Alabama was notably absent when rookies reported to training camp at One Buc Place on Wednesday morning.
The good news is that Barron could be signed soon.
Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III became the first of the top eight players in the draft to sign, agreeing to a four-year contract Wednesday. That could begin a domino effect that will accelerate the pace of signings.
Barron, the seventh overall selection, can earn as much as $2.63 million this season and $19.1 million over the length of his deal.
The new collective bargaining agreement, which includes a rookie salary cap and provides a framework for contracts based on draft positions, was supposed to prevent holdouts.
But most of the players at the top of the draft want fully guaranteed four-year contracts (and a team option for a fifth year) without what is called "offset language." Some teams prefer a clause that says if a player is released during those four years and signs with another team, the amount of the new deal will be subtracted from the original team's obligation.
Griffin's $21.1 million contract, which is fully guaranteed, includes no offset language.
Under the league's new pay system, the Bucs would have to exercise the option for a fifth year in Barron's contract after his third season. Because he is a top-10 pick, they would have to guarantee him a salary equal to the average of the top 10 safeties in the league.
Bucs rookies who reported Wednesday morning immediately began meeting with their position coaches.
Though rookies are not involved in full-squad practices at this time, they can work on conditioning with coaches and hold meetings, as well as continue the NFL acclimation process.
The Bucs are hopeful Barron will report by the weekend or early next week. Veterans report to training camp July 26, and the first full-squad workout is the next day.
The Bucs will make selected rookies and coach Greg Schiano available to the media this afternoon.