The Miami Dolphins today signed tailback Ronnie Brown, the second overall selection in the NFL draft in April.
Brown participated in the Dolphins' afternoon practice at their training facility in Davie, Fla., after signing what is believed to be a five-year contract containing about $20 million in bonus money. Brown traveled to South Florida late Sunday after his agent, Todd France, reached a tentative contract agreement with the Dolphins.
Quarterback Alex Smith, the draft's top overall pick, signed a six-year, $49.5 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers that included $24 million in bonuses.
Smith agreed to his deal three weeks ago, but the negotiations between the Dolphins and France dragged on. Wide receiver Braylon Edwards, the third overall choice, signed with the Cleveland Browns last week. The Dolphins apparently decided that enough was enough. They made a revised proposal, and the talks finally got moving.
Brown likely will open the regular season as the Dolphins' starting tailback. Ricky Williams ended his one-year retirement but must serve a four-game suspension at the outset of the season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Brown's signing leaves three first-round picks league-wide unsigned -- Chicago Bears tailback Cedric Benson (No. 4 overall), Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam (Pac-Man) Jones (No. 6) and Cincinnati Bengals linebacker David Pollack (No. 17).
Bears Learn Their Lesson . . . Finally
It took the Bears quite a while, but at least they finally learned from last season's mistake. With Rex Grossman hurt again, the Bears at last gave themselves some veteran insurance at quarterback by signing free agent Jeff Blake on Sunday.
Until signing Blake, it appeared that Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo and Coach Lovie Smith were intent upon reliving last season's offensive miseries. A year ago, the Bears went into the season with Jonathan Quinn and rookie Craig Krenzel, a fifth-round draft pick, backing up Grossman. Grossman suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 3, and the Bears played musical chairs with their quarterbacks the rest of the season. They became so desperate that they signed Jeff George. They had the league's last-ranked offense by a wide margin and they stumbled to a 5-11 record in Smith's first season as an NFL head coach.
So their top priority this past offseason was to make sure they were protected at quarterback, right? Wrong. The Bears flirted with free agents Kurt Warner, Brad Johnson and Jay Fiedler but didn't sign any of them, and went into the preseason with failed former Dallas starter Chad Hutchinson and rookie Kyle Orton, a fourth-round draft choice, behind Grossman. The bad luck continued for Grossman, who suffered a broken left ankle in the second quarter of Friday's exhibition game against the St. Louis Rams. He is scheduled to undergo surgery today and is to be sidelined three to four months.
The Bears signed Blake to a one-year contract. Blake, 34, was a third-stringer last season in Philadelphia. But he was a starter as recently as 2003 in Arizona. He has made 100 starts in 12 NFL seasons, and he's thrown for 21,656 yards and 133 touchdowns.
The Bears, who play the Washington Redskins in their regular season opener on Sept. 11 at FedEx Field, still list Hutchinson as their starter and Orton as their backup quarterback. They still have high hopes for an offensive improvement with a new coordinator (Ron Turner), a new tailback (Benson), a new group of receivers (free-agent addition Muhsin Muhammad and second-round pick Mark Bradley) and a bolstered offensive line (with free-agent signee Fred Miller at right tackle).
And now, they at least have an alternative on the roster if Hutchinson and Orton falter.
Eagles Looking for a WR?
Philadelphia opens its preseason tonight at Pittsburgh in a game between two would-be elite teams with disgruntled star wideouts. The Eagles' Terrell Owens was banished from the team for a week by Coach Andy Reid and remains in a bitter contract dispute with the club, and the Steelers' Hines Ward is holding out in a contract spat.
There have been rumblings around the league in recent days that the Eagles will add a wide receiver. Some believe they will try to trade for the Green Bay Packers' Robert Ferguson. The Packers are deep at receiver but could use help at defensive tackle and linebacker, spots at which the Eagles have surpluses. Cleveland's Andre Davis is another possible trade target.
There also is a thought that the Eagles might consider signing Koren Robinson, the troubled former first-round draft choice who was released by the Seattle Seahawks in June. He reportedly has entered an alcohol rehabilitation program but remains interested in playing this season. . . .
Safety Arturo Freeman, just released by the Packers, agreed to a one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Titans. . . .
Coach Steve Mariucci is leaving open the possibility that veteran quarterback Jeff Garcia could start the Detroit Lions' second preseason game Saturday against the Browns. Mariucci says it's just to get Garcia a chance to work with the offensive starters. But even raising the possibility strengthens the notion that Mariucci won't hesitate to go to Garcia, signed as a free agent during the offseason, if starter Joey Harrington stumbles early in the regular season.
Harrington completed all nine of his passes in Friday's loss to the New York Jets to open the preseason. . . .
The Lions will be without fullback Cory Schlesinger for six to eight weeks because of a broken leg suffered Friday. . . .
Wide receiver Peter Warrick participated in the Bengals' practice Sunday. He was cleared by doctors last week after having his 2004 season cut short by a fractured leg. . . .
Smith struggled in his preseason debut Saturday night against the Oakland Raiders. He completed only three of nine passes for 25 yards, and the San Francisco offense managed only two first downs in five drives with him on the field.
Smith was scheduled to play only about 25 snaps. But the 49ers offense went three plays and out on each of its first four possessions. Smith ended up playing the entire first half and getting only 18 snaps. The 49ers' initial first down came with just over a minute to play in the half.
Veteran Tim Rattay, vying with Smith for the starting job entering the regular season, fared far better, taking over in the third quarter and connecting on six of eight throws for 103 yards and two touchdowns.