Dealing with Postons is a bad sign

ON THE NFL

August 01, 2004|By KEN MURRAY

They might be the most feared defenders in the NFL at the moment, and they don't even strap on pads. But Carl and Kevin Poston, the brother agents, once again have rocked league negotiators with exorbitant contract demands.

In what has become one of summer's predictable skirmishes, the Postons still have three franchise players and an unsigned first-round draft pick sitting out the early days of training camp. This after two first-round picks avoided holdouts on Friday.

Perhaps the most menacing of those staredowns is the one that involves San Francisco 49ers linebacker Julian Peterson, a fifth-year veteran from Temple Hills. After slapping the franchise tag on Peterson, the 49ers offered him $15.5 million in guaranteed money on a six-year, $37.8 million deal.

Not good enough, Kevin Poston responded. He told 49ers general manager Terry Donahue he wants Peyton Manning-like money. Manning got a $34.5 million signing bonus from the Indianapolis Colts this offseason, and that's a chasm the salary cap-impaired 49ers won't be able to bridge.

Carl Poston, meanwhile, has been negotiating for St. Louis Rams left tackle Orlando Pace and Oakland Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson, both franchise players. Pace, in the same boat last year, sat out all preseason before accepting the qualifying offer.

Woodson appears determined to become the highest-paid cornerback in the league, hoping to exceed the $18 million signing bonus given to Champ Bailey by the Denver Broncos.

The Postons' three first-round picks this year are tight end Kellen Winslow, the sixth pick by the Cleveland Browns; wide receiver Reggie Williams, the ninth pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars; and cornerback Chris Gamble, the 28th pick by the Carolina Panthers. Williams and Gamble each agreed to five-year deals on Friday.

The Browns have been so thwarted by the lack of progress that team president John Collins went public with negotiations Friday. Collins said the Browns were willing to give Winslow a deal that matches the seven-year contract given safety Sean Taylor - taken fifth - by the Washington Redskins. Taylor will receive bonus money of more than $13 million in the $18 million deal.

Here's a hint on why negotiations stalled: Kevin Poston has called Winslow "the LeBron James" of the Browns, and on draft day, he made the observation that Winslow had been the No. 1 player on several draft boards.

Waiting on Warner

Even though quarterback Eli Manning broke the NFL rookie record for a signing bonus with a $20 million payoff from the New York Giants last week, the team continues to insist he will not be rushed onto the field.

"This isn't a screenplay," general manager Ernie Accorsi said. "We don't have a dramatic production here where there's a certain time he comes off the wings and onto the stage. This is football. There has to be competition. It has to play itself out on the field. That's why we signed Kurt Warner, to protect ourselves, so we had a veteran and a young player."

Nevertheless, Manning arrived at camp with designs on winning the job right away from Warner. "I hope to be the starting quarterback; that's what I've wanted to do," he said.

Manning's timetable depends largely on Warner's performance. If the two-time NFL Most Valuable Player can show a semblance of his old touch, Warner should start on opening day against the Philadelphia Eagles. If not, Manning could be on the hot seat much earlier than expected.

Hatley mourned

The death of respected personnel man Mark Hatley at age 54 last week was met with sadness and reflection in Chicago and Green Bay. Hatley had been the vice president of football operations for the Packers since leaving the Bears after the 2001 draft.

Although Hatley is remembered most for back-to-back first-round draft failures Curtis Enis (1998) and Cade McNown (1999) in Chicago, he also drafted back-to-back rookies of the year in Brian Urlacher (2000) and Anthony Thomas (2001). And all 22 starters on the Bears' 13-3 playoff team in 2001 were acquired under Hatley.

An autopsy showed that Hatley died of a heart attack brought on by clogged arteries, even though he exercised regularly. "For a man that young and vigorous ... it's a terrible, terrible shock," said Packers president Bob Harlan. "I guess when God's ready, God's ready."

Fourth and short

Will the Denver Broncos miss running back Clinton Portis? Since Mike Shanahan was hired as coach in 1995, the Broncos have had only one season when they did not have a 1,000-yard rusher. That was 2001, when Terrell Davis ran for 701. Still, Portis scored 14 rushing touchdowns and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. That's hard to replace. ... The Dallas Cowboys took a salary cap hit last week of approximately $900,000 after releasing quarterback Chad Hutchinson. On his way out, Hutchinson delivered another hit, saying, "I will guarantee the Cowboys will regret doing this." ... Playing in 76,877-seat Alltel Stadium, the Jaguars blacked out six of eight games last year and could black out all eight home games this season. Next year, owner Wayne Weaver says he'll cover up seats and take the capacity down to 65,000 or smaller.

Compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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