Rams' Zygmunt thinks Jackson will sign soon
By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch07/23/2004
The club hopes to have all its draft picks under contract when training camp opens next week.
Although time is growing short, Rams president of football operations Jay Zygmunt is long on optimism: He expects first-round draft choice Steven Jackson, along with the team's two other unsigned picks, to be under contract and in attendance when training camp opens Tuesday.
"We anticipate they'll all get done," said Zygmunt, who handles contract negotiations.
In addition to Jackson, a running back from Oregon State, defensive end Anthony Hargrove of Georgia Tech (third round) and quarterback Jeff Smoker of Michigan State (sixth round) haven't agreed to terms.
On Friday, tight end Erik Jensen of Iowa, a seventh-round selection, accepted a three-year deal; financial terms were not disclosed. Linebacker Brandon Chillar of UCLA (fourth round), safety Jason Shivers of Arizona State (fifth round) and offensive lineman Larry Turner of Western Kentucky (seventh round) had signed earlier.
Jackson is the primary target, and Zygmunt said he met three times with agent Rocky Arceneaux last week on the West Coast.
"We've exchanged some offers, and we'll be talking throughout the weekend," Zygmunt said. "This deal will get done; the only question is when. I would expect this to be done before the start of camp."
That almost assuredly won't be the case with All-Pro offensive tackle Orlando Pace. Zygmunt said he hadn't talked recently with Pace's agent, Carl Poston, and said he didn't plan to until Pace signs a one-year tender as the team's franchise player, as he did last year. Then, Zygmunt said, negotiations on a long-term deal would resume.
Poston initially asked for a $27 million signing bonus as part of a seven-year, $71 million proposal. He said he then made a counterproposal of seven years and $66 million, including $23 million to sign. Poston later indicated that he would seek a bonus of about $20 million. The Rams have offered $13 million, but team sources said they would be willing to increase their offer to $16 million or $17 million. Still, the gap is wide.
Asked if he was optimistic about tying up Pace for several years, Zygmunt said: "Gosh, I'd like to be. But there's such a difference in valuation that I don't know that that could be bridged. If that's their position, that's their belief, I'd say the answer is clearly no."
New role for Bulger
No one will be busier during the three weeks in Macomb, Ill., than Marc Bulger, who heads into camp as the top quarterback for the first time.
"Our No. 1 quarterback gets priority over everything," Martz said. "He gets all the snaps."
Two years ago, Bulger was No. 3 on the depth chart and had virtually no work with the first team. Last year, Martz wanted to get a close look at Kurt Warner, so Bulger again took a back seat. But not anymore.
"This is a terrific opportunity for Marc to really have a better insight into what we're doing offensively instead of just running plays," Martz said. "He knows what to do, but he's still learning why we're doing it. ... "He was kind of learning on the run throughout (last) season. His first two days of minicamp (in May) were about like he was last year. And then all of a sudden, he just took off. Hopefully he'll continue that."
For up-to-date information on the Rams' practice schedule at Western Illinois University, call the Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau toll-free at 1-866-726- 7226.