Bledsoe expected to sign No. 1 pact ever for an NFL rookie with Patriots PRO FOOTBALL

July 06, 1993|By The Hartford Courant

The New England Patriots have reached an agreement with their quarterback of the future. Drew Bledsoe, the first player selected in the NFL draft April 26, will be in Boston today to sign a contract.

According to television reports, it's the richest contract ever for an NFL rookie.

"Absolutely, he's very happy," said Bledsoe's father, Mac, from his home in Yakima, Wash., yesterday.

"His big priority was to get signed and get to training camp on time. He's been to all the minicamps and has the playbook. He's ready to go."

Training camp, in Smithfield, R.I., will begin July 15.

The NFL's salary cap for rookies, part of the new collective bargaining agreement, limits the amount Bledsoe can make this season. According to an ESPN report, Bledsoe's contract is worth $14.5 million for four years, including a $4.5 million signing bonus, and additional incentives starting in the third year of the deal.

A Patriots spokesman would not comment on the report, or on whether a news conference was scheduled for today. Bledsoe's agent, Leigh Steinberg, was not available for comment.

Mac Bledsoe would not comment on the terms of the contract but said his son, who was driving across the country with friends, planned to fly to Boston last night and sign today.

The intricacies of the new rules, apparently, were the only sticking points in the negotiations.

"The negotiations were very cordial," Mac Bledsoe said. "I'd say [the salary cap] complicated the negotiations for both sides."

It was anticipated that the salary cap would check salaries for high draft choices. The Chicago Bears signed their first-round pick (seventh overall), wide receiver Curtis Conway of Southern California, to a three-year, $3.3 million contract; and the Green Bay Packers signed linebacker Wayne Simmons of Clemson (No. 15) for $3 million over four years.

Both deals represent a scaling back of first-round money, compared to previous years.

But Bledsoe's contract would buck the trend. Quarterback Jeff George, the first pick in the 1990 draft out of Illinois, signed with the Indianapolis Colts for $15 million over six years, previously the most lucrative rookie deal.

Bledsoe's signing bonus will be prorated over the length of the contract, so only about $1.1 million will count against the Patriots' total allotment of $3 million for its 10 draft picks.

In 28 starts at Washington State, Bledsoe (6 feet 5, 233 pounds) completed 54.3 percent of his passes for 7,373 yards, 44 touchdowns and 33 interceptions.

Bledsoe passed up his final year of college eligibility and made himself available for the draft.

New Patriots coach Bill Parcells chose Bledsoe over Notre Dame quarterback Rick Mirer after weeks of speculation.

The Patriots were 2-14 last season.

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