- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 28, 2001

Little progress was made yesterday in the Washington Redskins' negotiations with their top two draft picks, but all parties remained hopeful the pair will be on hand when training camp practices begin Monday in Carlisle, Pa.

First-round wide receiver Rod Gardner and second-round cornerback Fred Smoot remained absent from precamp activities for rookies, quarterbacks and veterans returning from injuries. Gardner is working out in Atlanta and Smoot in Jackson, Miss.

Little has been settled in negotiations with Gardner, the draft's 15th overall selection, sources familiar with the talks said, but a settlement is not expected to be necessarily contentious.

Agent Joel Segal spent the day consumed in a deal for Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Gerard Warren, the third selection. The Browns already have started camp, adding urgency to those talks. Segal was expected to speak to the Redskins last night.

The Redskins and Gardner have agreed on a five-year deal, and it is likely to contain a two-tiered signing bonus that lowers Gardner's first-year salary cap figure.

Allowing Gardner to complete a deal was Deion Sanders' retirement, which saves Washington $3.625 million of cap space. Although the Redskins were not holding off on Gardner's talks while Sanders remained on the roster, they knew no contract could be signed until Sanders' situation was resolved.

Also aiding Gardner was an agreement between the New York Jets and receiver Santana Moss. Moss, taken 16th, agreed to a five-year deal with a total tiered bonus of nearly $5 million, league sources said. The initial bonus is $3.4 million, and an option payment of $1.55 million will come in the spring.

Moss' deal, because of his similar position on the field and in the draft to Gardner, is considered key to signing the Redskins rookie.

Smoot, too, is willing to accept a tiered bonus, which would give the Redskins, in his case, some insurance against off-field problems. Smoot, the 45th pick, dropped out of the first round because of questions about his ability to stay out of trouble. At issue in Smoot's talks, sources said, was the size of the signing bonus and the structure of the incentive package.

Meanwhile, the Redskins claimed fullback Thad Buttone from the Carolina Panthers. Buttone (6-foot, 250 pounds) is an undrafted rookie out of Troy State.

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