Jackson gets 5-year, $7 million deal with Rams
By Jim Thomas

Of the Post-Dispatch

Steven Jackson's first NFL contract is a five- year deal worth $7 million, according to NFL Players Association figures.

But he could earn an additional $1.7 million through incentives and what are called "escalators."

The running back from Oregon State earns a one-time bonus of $200,000 if he rushes for 800 yards this season. That's the incentive clause.

In addition, Jackson's base salary in Year 5 of the contract could increase - or "escalate" by as much as $1.5 million if he reaches certain benchmarks:

An additional $125,000 added to Year 5 for every Pro Bowl he makes over the next four seasons. (For a possible total increase of $500,000.)

An additional $250,000 added to Year 5 for every 1,000-yard season he posts over the next four seasons. (For a possible total increase of $1 million.)

As it stands now, Jackson is due a base salary of $832,000 in 2008 - the fifth year of his contract. His other base salaries are $660,000 in 2004, $337,500 in 2005, $502,500 in 2006 and $667,500 in 2007.

Jackson gets a $2.05 million signing bonus, with $200,000 of that figure tied to offseason workouts. There's also a $1.95 million option bonus for the fifth year of the contract, payable after the '04 season.

Obviously, it would take something extreme for the Rams not to exercise the option in the fifth year. And even if they didn't, the $1.95 million is guaranteed. (If the fifth year disappears, the $1.95 million is added to Jackson's base salaries in increments over '05, '06 and '07.)

Jackson, agent Rocky Arceneau and Rams president of football operations Jay Zygmunt wrapped up the contract Saturday evening at a St. Louis restaurant, where Jackson was celebrating his 21st birthday. (Jackson's actual birth date was two days earlier, on July 22.)

At the time of his signing, Jackson was only the fifth first-round draft pick to come to terms this year in the NFL. And by the time third-round draft pick Anthony Hargrove signed on Tuesday, just before boarding a bus for Macomb, the Rams had all seven draft picks in the fold. By way of comparison, the Arizona Cardinals had no picks signed at that time.

"We're always trying to get them done as soon as we can," Zygmunt said. "A lot of times, these negotiations can take so many different twists and turns, you're never really sure what's going to happen until they're really completed."

It marked the fourth time in six years that every Rams draft pick has been in training camp on time. The Rams haven't had a lengthy holdout by a draft pick since No. 1 overall selection Orlando Pace missed all of camp in 1997.

"We're always happy when the draft picks are all in camp," Zygmunt said. "We believe it gives them the best chance to be able to make a contribution for the season. The sooner they get into the routine, then they get a chance to learn the system and really start preparing for the season."

This was particularly true for Jackson. He missed most of the Rams' offseason workout period because Oregon State's senior class didn't graduate until mid-June. Other than the post-draft minicamp, all draft picks - even if they're not seniors - can't participate in any other activities with their NFL team until that year's senior class graduates.

Beyond that, Jackson temporarily angered coach Mike Martz by failing to attend a Rams rookie camp in St. Louis the week before training camp started in Macomb. Jackson did so more at the urging of his family than of Arceneaux, according to sources. (Why risk injury without a contract so close to camp.)

"But it was evident that they really wanted to get this done," Zygmunt said, referring to both Jackson and Arceneaux. "It was evident by their approach."

For example, a schedule of negotiating meetings was set up early in the process - not that long after the draft.

"It always takes two sides to make a deal," Zygmunt said. "Obviously, we really wanted him in, and he wanted to be here."

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The Class of 2004

Contract figures for the Rams' 2004 draft picks:

RB Steven Jackson - Oregon St.
1st round (24th overall) 5 years, $7 million, $2.05 million signing bonus

DE Anthony Hargrove - Ga. Tech
3rd round (91st overall) 3 years, $1.374 million, $442,000 signing bonus

LB Brandon Chillar - UCLA
4th round (130th overall) 3 years, $1.201 million, $269,000 signing bonus

S Jason Shivers - Arizona St.
5th round (158th overall) 3 years, $1.043 million, $111,000 signing bonus

QB Jeff Smoker - Michigan St.
6th round (201st overall) 3 years, $981,000, $49,000 signing bonus

TE Erik Jensen - Iowa
7th round (237th overall) 3 years, $959,000, $27,000 signing bonus

C Larry Turner - E. Kentucky
7th round (238th overall) 3 years, $959,000, $26,750 signing bonus