Eight days after his agent predicted he would be traded, Mike Nelms has agreed to a new contract with the Washington Redskins that makes him the highest-paid kick returner in the National Football League.
Both General Manager Bobby Beathard and Rick Bennett, Nelms' attorney, confirmed last night that an agreement had been reached. Although neither would discuss terms, it was learned that Nelms has a three-year contract that likely will pay him between $180,000 and $200,000 next year.
Last year, according to figures released by the NFL Players Association, Nelms and Billy Johnson of Atlanta were the highest-paid kick returners in the league, at $110,000.
Another client of Bennett's, safety Tony Peters, has formally reached an agreement with the team. His four-year contract will pay him about $200,000 next season. Middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz is close to signing, and apparently could accept the Redskins' latest offer today.
Nelms and Beathard had been far apart in negotiations and Bennett thought last week's drafting of Darrell Green on the first round was a sign Beathard wanted to trade Nelms.
But the Redskins have maintained they don't want to disrupt the team that won Super Bowl XVII. They apparently were anxious to have Nelms signed before the start of next week's minicamp, during which Coach Joe Gibbs wants to give Nelms a full workout at wide receiver. It was unlikely Nelms would have reported to the minicamp without a contract.
"We got together a couple of times the past week and we decided that has to be a time to do it," Beathard said. "Either it had to be done now or not at all."
"Both the Redskins and Mike realized if they were going to come to terms, they needed to do it before the minicamp," Bennett said. "That's when Bobby decided he was ready to negotiate and we made some headway."
Beathard said he also was close to signing tackle Joe Jacoby, defensive tackle Darryl Grant, quarterback Tom Owen and linebacker Pete Cronan. But the general manager said that Howard Slusher, who represents Jeris White, has told the Redskins it will be very difficult for them to sign the cornerback.