- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 18, 2002

A wide negotiating gap lies between the Washington Redskins and running back Ladell Betts, their second-round draft pick, but on the positive side, the club made progress yesterday by agreeing to terms with seventh-round fullback Rock Cartwright.

With Betts, the sides have made opening offers but aren't close on many fronts with the former Iowa standout's deal. Talks are expected to heat up in anticipation of training camp opening next week.

It's still too early to predict a holdout for Betts, the 24th pick of the second round, but considerable work remains. Last summer, the Redskins' second-round pick, cornerback Fred Smoot, missed two days of training camp while holding out.

Betts is expected to fight for the backup tailback position behind veteran Stephen Davis. Betts has impressed coaches with his toughness and ball-catching ability and could be the third-down back, though to date he has taken snaps behind second-year player Kenny Watson.

Cartwright, 22, is 5-foot-7 but extremely quick for his girth (237 pounds). The Kansas State product could get playing time this season after working as the second-string fullback in offseason practices.

Washington now has three of 10 picks in the fold, having already signed fifth-round safety Andre Lott and seventh-round defensive end Greg Scott. Sixth-round tackle Reggie Coleman, like Cartwright, has been close to a deal for about a week and could sign at any time.

Meanwhile, agent Jimmy Sexton, who represents first-round quarterback Patrick Ramsey, left Washington after further preliminary discussions with club officials. The sides should make opening contract offers today or tomorrow.

Ramsey's talks are considered most crucial because he is the only draft pick with an outside chance to start. Also, other Redskins picks are looking to Ramsey to set the market; the tight rookie pool situation this year means his large deal will significantly affect for how much and how long they can sign.

The club continued speaking to seventh-round long snapper Jeff Grau in discussions that have been surprisingly far apart. Grau believes he should be slotted like any other position player; the Redskins think he should be paid slightly less. A holdout, however, appears unlikely.

Negotiations should intensify over the next few days with fifth-round tight end Robert Royal and third-round selections Rashad Bauman (cornerback) and Cliff Russell (wide receiver). Royal's deal should get done quickly; he was taken one pick behind Lott and thus should be easy to slot.

Signings continue to trickle in around the league but the Redskins are under more time pressure than most clubs. They open camp Tuesday in Carlisle, Pa., several days earlier than the majority of the league because of the Aug.3 exhibition in Osaka, Japan.

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