Negotiations continue between the league and the NFL Players Association on a possible extension of the collective bargaining agreement, but little headway is being made.
"I think they're meeting and there is some progress," Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney said by telephone Thursday. "But it's not enough, unfortunately."
Labor peace has been one of the key elements of the NFL becoming the nation's most popular and prosperous sports league, but this set of negotiations has been unusually problematic.
Union chief Gene Upshaw is seeking to include a broader range of league revenues in the pool from which the players are paid under the sport's salary-cap system. Meantime, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is trying to coax the team owners into agreeing to a revised revenue-sharing system by which the league's wealthiest franchises would share a greater portion of their locally generated revenues with the less-prosperous clubs.
Those two sets of deliberations are taking place concurrently, and the sport's leaders would like to bring the process to a conclusion around October. The current salary-cap system would remain in place for the next two seasons under the existing labor agreement, then there would be a season without a salary cap in 2007 before the deal expires.
Clarett Agrees to Unusual Contract
Rookie tailback Maurice Clarett agreed to an unusual contract with the Denver Broncos on Thursday, one that includes no signing bonus.
Based on his draft slot -- 101st overall -- Clarett was in line to receive a contract worth about $1.8 million over the next four seasons, including a signing bonus of $411,000. But Clarett and agent Steve Feldman opted to forego a signing bonus -- generally the only guaranteed portion of an NFL player's contract -- for a lucrative package of incentives, escalators and workout bonuses that could push the value of the deal as high as $7 million.
Denver selected Clarett with the final pick of the third round, a couple rounds higher than most people in the league expected the running back to be chosen. He hasn't played in two seasons since helping Ohio State to a national championship as a college freshman, and last year he failed in his legal bid to force the NFL to allow him to enter the draft a year earlier than the league's eligibility rules permit.
Gannon to Announce Retirement
CBS Sports hired Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon as a game analyst for the upcoming season, making the former league most valuable player's retirement all but official. Gannon plans to make an announcement on Aug. 6 after undergoing a physical for the Raiders. If he fails, as expected, he would be eligible under league rules for an injury-protection benefit payment. His 2004 season ended when he suffered a broken vertebra in his neck during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last September.
Gannon, 39, played 17 NFL seasons for the Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs and Raiders. He was the league MVP in the 2002 season, when he led the Raiders to the Super Bowl.
He is to work six to 10 games for CBS this season. . . . .
Ted Johnson's retirement means that the New England Patriots will have a vastly different look to their linebacker corps this season. The club released Roman Phifer during the offseason, and Tedy Bruschi is sitting out the season after suffering a mild stroke in February. The club signed linebackers Chad Brown and Monty Beisel as free agents.
Johnson, 32, played on four Super Bowl teams -- and three Super Bowl champions -- in 10 seasons with the Patriots. He retired because he did not want to risk further injury after a series of concussions, and apologized to Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Coach Bill Belichick for the timing of his decision . . . .
The Patriots haven't renegotiated the contract of defensive end Richard Seymour, who is holding out from training camp, but they did agree to contract extensions with linebacker Mike Vrabel and defensive end Jarvis Green and are working on deals with safety Rodney Harrison and kicker Adam Vinatieri . . . .
Tailback Deuce McAllister's contract extension with the New Orleans Saints is worth $50.1 million over the next eight seasons, including $12.5 million in bonuses. The deal contains escalator clauses worth $3.1 million that could push the overall value of the contract to $53.2 million.
The deal makes McAllister the highest-paid player in franchise history and one of the three highest-paid running backs in the league. LaDainian Tomlinson has an eight-year, $60 million contract with the San Diego Chargers, and Clinton Portis has an eight-year, $50.5 million deal with the Redskins . . . .
Safety Donovin Darius agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The deal pays him $4.968 million this season, the same amount he was due to earn under his franchise-player contract. Darius, unhappy about being given the franchise-player tag, had attempted to get himself traded to Miami or Minnesota during the offseason, going so far as to e-mail reporters to express his interest in playing for the Dolphins or Vikings . . . .
Tight end Antonio Gates did not report to the Chargers' training camp Thursday. His representatives are negotiating a long-term contract with the Chargers . . . .
Unsigned franchise player John Abraham was a no-show at the New York Jets' training camp. The defensive end apparently would sign his one-year, $6.666 million franchise-player contract and report to camp if the Jets would agree to the same provisions that got franchise-player tailback Shaun Alexander to sign a one-year, $6.323 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks agreed not to trade Alexander this season without his approval, and not to name him the franchise player again next offseason . . . .
Miami signed free-agent safety Lance Schulters, released by Tennessee last month, to a one-year contract. The deal includes a $665,000 salary and another $600,000 in possible incentives . . . . Cleveland signed free-agent linebacker Orlando Ruff . . . . Kansas City signed free-agent cornerback Dewayne Washington. But the Chiefs remain interested in Ty Law, the four-time Pro Bowl cornerback who still is on the open market. He's also being pursued by the Lions, Jets and Jaguars . . . . Tampa Bay released veteran offensive tackle Todd Steussie in a salary-cap maneuver. Steussie was one of three current or former Carolina players named in a "60 Minutes Wednesday" report this year as having had steroid prescriptions by a South Carolina physician filled within weeks of playing for the Panthers in the Super Bowl in February 2004.