- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2001

The Washington Redskins made progress last night in signing their top draft pick, first-round wide receiver Rod Gardner, but it appeared second-round cornerback Fred Smoot would become at least a brief holdout, league sources said.

Gardner and Smoot remained in Atlanta and Jackson, Miss., respectively, missing the third and final day of pre-training camp practices at Redskin Park. Last night Gardner appeared more likely than Smoot to travel to Carlisle, Pa., today and report to camp on time with the rest of his teammates.

Sources said the basic structure of Gardner's deal was in place. It will be a five-year pact with a two-tiered signing bonus, the initial payment representing the bulk of the bonus and the second, or option, payment triggering the contract's fifth year. The overall value will exceed $7.5 million, with a total bonus of $5.1 million.

As of early last night, the sides had agreed on the bonus, salaries and total value for Gardner, the draft's 15th overall pick, with a sizable package of incentives and escalators left to be decided.

Gardner's numbers represented a slight increase over what New York Jets receiver Santana Moss, the 16th pick, received. Moss signed a five-year deal for about $7.1 million, with a tiered bonus that totaled just under $5 million.

Tiered bonuses have been common among this year's top picks because of the complex application of the "Deion Sanders rule." The rule takes salary cap charges out of the final years of high-bonus, low-salary contracts and puts them into earlier years, theoretically suppressing signing bonuses. The delay in ratifying an extension to the collective bargaining agreement gave the Sanders rule a stiff impact this season.

Gardner, reached in the afternoon in Atlanta, sounded excited to complete a deal.

"Hell, yeah, I'm ready to do this," Gardner said. "It's got to get done. There ain't no other way. As soon as I get the word, I'm getting on a plane."

No proposals were exchanged in Smoot's talks and none are expected to be exchanged today, sources said. Smoot, the 45th pick, is expected to miss tomorrow's practices and perhaps fly to Carlisle in the afternoon. All of the fundamentals in Smoot's contract signing bonus, structure and incentives remain undecided, but it is possible the pact could get done today.

There have been hurdles in Smoot's talks from the start. His camp believes he should be paid the way he was rated by scouts, with a value closer to the first round. But because concerns about Smoot's off-field behavior dropped him into the second round, Washington thinks he should be paid less, perhaps even less than where he went in the draft.

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