Although negotiations remain stalemated after 2 1/2 months of bargaining, General Manager Bobby Beathard said yesterday he was optimistic for the first time that the Redskins can reach a contract agreement with their first-round draft choice, offensive tackle Mark May.

"A gut feeling, nothing else," Beathard said about his optimistic attitude. "Ralph Cindrich (May's attorney) and I have talked a lot and never seemed to get anywhere. Today, we seemed to lay some groundwork. But it's useless to toss out figures right now, we're so far apart. There has to be give on both sides."

Beathard would like to meet face-to-face with Cindrich Monday. But that confrontation will take place, according to Beathard, "only if we feel there is room for compromise."

At this point, there seems to be only one thing the two sides agree on: it is unlikely that May will report for the start of training camp Tuesday in Carlisle, Pa.

Cindrich held out the possibility yesterday that May might never sign with the Redskins.

"As things stand right now, I could see him sitting out the entire season," Cindrich said.

But other sources close to the negotiations aren't as pessimistic. They feel that a compromise will be reached, perhaps even before Tuesday.

Cindrich said he had had contact with teams in Canada, but added: "I don't want to interject that into the negotiations at this point."

Cindrich refused to say which Canadian team holds May's negotiating rights. Sources said no team appears to have those rights.

Two NFL first-round choices, David Overstreet (Miami) and Keith Gary (Pittsburgh) have signed with Montreal of the Canadian Football League.Only six other No. 1 picks have agreed to contracts with NFL clubs.

"We aren't the only ones having problems," Beathard said. "It seems to be a trend in the league."

Although both sides refused to discuss contract proposals, it is likely that May is asking for an annual salary in the $120,000 to $140,000 range. The Redskins aren't willing to budge over the $100,000 mark, however. Last year, they paid highly touted rookie Art Monk $90,000 after he initially had asked for $175,000.

May also wants a healthy signing bonus, probably as much as $300,000. Last year, the Redskins gave Monk a $200,000 signing bonus, and probably won't exceed that figure with May.

Otherwise, Beathard has wrapped up most of his contract negotiations. Center Russ Grimm, the No. 3 choice, is close to signing. Beathard also is talking to veteran linebackers Monte Coleman and Rich Milot, both of whom are entering the option years of their contracts. He expects to sign both during training camp.