Teams rush to sign players before camps

Friday, July 26, 2002

NFL teams spent Thursday trying to sign their top draft picks, thwarted in many instances by a "slotting" system that annually sets the pay checks of high-priced rookies.

Entering the day, only less than half of the 32 first-round draft picks had been signed. They were in clusters -- the first three overall choices and 10 more from the 19th to the 31st.

No. 17, cornerback Philip Buchanon of the Raiders, signed on Thursday and so did No. 30, guard Kendall Simmons of the Steelers, and No. 19, Ashley Lelie of Denver.

But the problem for agents and general managers alike is finding the slot in which to fit the contract. That is, 19 is paid a little more than 20, who gets a little more than 21 and so on.

"There is a gap between the fourth pick and the 19th pick and we're 14th," said Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi, who is trying to sign first-round pick Jeremy Shockey, already his starting tight end.

"We'd be willing to take our chances, but he's not. There's no form for him to fall back on."


  • RAMS: The team reports to training camp at remote Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill., today, the better to concentrate just on football. Coach Mike Martz will keep the players occupied almost around the clock, with the day stretching from 7 a.m. breakfast to late-night meetings that don't end until 10 p.m. or so.

    The routine, which begins with two-a-day workouts on Saturday, is designed to give the Rams, who were upset by the Patriots in February and beat the Titans in 2000, another shot at the big ring.

    "It's the little details," tight end Ernie Conwell said. "It helps to keep that in mind."

    The Rams should have extra drive after their 20-17 loss to New England. They entered the game as double-digit favorites.

    "That's one of those things that every time it's brought up, probably for a lifetime, you'll have to take a deep breath and sigh a little bit," Conwell said. "You know, it was a tough loss.

    GIANTS: Having extended the contract of starter Kerry Collins, the Giants found enough cap room to re-sign backup Jason Garrett, cut last spring for salary cap reasons. Garrett will compete for the second-string job with second-year man Jesse Palmer.

    BRONCOS: Kicker Jason Elam agreed to a one-year contract, and first-round draft pick Ashley Lelie, a wide receiver, and second-rounder Clinton Portis, also agreed to deals.

    STEELERS: First-round draft pick Kendall Simmons reached terms on a six-year contract and reported to training camp in time for Pittsburgh's first workout.

    REDSKINS: Defensive lineman Daryl Gardener, released by Miami was at Redskins Park in Virginia on Thursday morning to meet with team officials. Gardner is being courted by several teams.

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