Mulitalo, Stokley look like holdouts

Ravens' 4th-rounders seek guaranteed money

July 28, 1999|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Barring any major changes in negotiating strategies, the Ravens face the rare but strong possibility of having two fourth-round draft picks hold out of training camp, which begins tomorrow at Western Maryland College.

Players must report by 4 p.m. today, but University of Arizona offensive tackle Edwin Mulitalo and Southwestern Louisiana receiver Brandon Stokley may be among the missing. University of Virginia safety Anthony Poindexter, selected in the seventh round, also doesn't have a contract, but he isn't expected to play this season because he is still rehabilitating from major knee surgery.

It's uncommon for fourth-round draft picks to hold out, but the agents for Mulitalo and Stokley were still trying to secure guaranteed money for their clients last night. The Ravens weren't willing to budge, possibly trying to strong-arm the players into training camp because they are lower-round picks. Neither the agents nor team officials wanted to talk about the negotiations, but Rick Smith, Stokley's agent, shared his frustrations briefly.

"We're working toward it, but we're not even close," said Smith. "We're trying to find the right way to do this, but we're not making much headway."

Both sides agree the Ravens were given an unfair rookie pool number by the league of $1.96 million to sign four rookies for the 1999 season. No. 1 draft pick Chris McAlister, the University of Arizona cornerback, ate up most of the pool when he agreed to a four-year deal worth $7.1 million last week.

That left the Ravens with about $562,000 to sign Stokley, Mulitalo and Poindexter to three-year deals worth $175,000 each this season, but virtually no room for signing bonuses, which are guaranteed. Other players drafted near Stokley and Mulitalo have received signing bonuses for as much as $225,000 and as low as $165,000. But two league sources said the Ravens haven't approached the $50,000 range.

Other teams, like the Washington Redskins and the Atlanta Falcons, have also struggled with their rookie salary pool numbers but have offset it by signing their picks to four- or five-year contracts that are voidable after three. Voidables have not been considered an option at this point.

According to one of the sources, the Ravens have offered incentive and bonus clauses that are based on minutes played and other things such as receptions and touchdown passes, but that money is not guaranteed.

All three of the players are expected to make the Ravens' roster, but none of them will play right away. Stokley may become a fourth or fifth receiver by the end of the year and Mulitalo could challenge for a starting guard position next season. Poindexter is a project after suffering the injury last season.

If they get cut before the season, they only have their signing bonus money.

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