If quarterback Joe Theismann is on the Washington Redskins' active roster every game this season, he would be the highest-paid player in the National Football League, it was learned yesterday.
Theismann's new contract, according to a source familiar with the agreement, includes a guaranteed signing bonus of more than $1 million, much of it deferred; a base salary between $500,000 and $650,000 a year; and a bonus of more than $600,000 a year if he is on the active roster all season.
The sum of Theismann's base salary and roster bonus (approximately $1.2 million) would exceed any other player's base salary and roster bonus, according to published figures. It is believed that no other player in the league has a roster bonus of more than $50,000.
Some NFL players, such as quarterbacks Bernie Kosar of the Cleveland Browns and Steve Young of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will earn more over time because of huge signing bonuses or other contract deals. But none would be expected to make more this season in salary and roster bonuses than Theismann, if he can come back and make the team.
In January, two months after he broke his right leg, Theismann signed a new two-year contract with an option year. Terms of the contract had not been disclosed.
Theismann, who made a reported $405,000 last year, could not be reached for comment last night. Owner Jack Kent Cooke, with whom Theismann negotiates directly, declined to comment on the contract.
Theismann has maintained throughout his rehabilitation that he wants to return to the team this season, although he is missing the team's minicamp, which began yesterday at Redskin Park. (He worked out in the weight room yesterday morning but left before the rookies and free agents began their work.)
It still is uncertain whether Theismann will be physically able to play in July, when the Redskins open training camp in Carlisle, Pa.
But Theismann, who will be 37 in September, recently said his rehabilitation was only "80 percent" complete, and said he did not know if he would be able to play this season.
He appears to have several options: play here or with another team, go on injured reserve with the Redskins, or retire and consider doing color commentary on games for CBS-TV or NBC-TV.
If he is on injured reserve, he would receive his base salary, but not the roster bonus. If he retires, he would receive the signing bonus of more than $1 million.
In March, the Redskins talked to four teams about trading Theismann but could not cut a deal. At the time, some teams expressed concern about the size of Theismann's contract.
In April, Coach Joe Gibbs, contradicting indications the team had given all winter, said if Theismann was healthy, he would like to see him compete with Jay Schroeder for the Redskins' starting job.
Schroeder, 24, led the 10-6 Redskins to a 5-1 finish after he replaced Theismann.
Running back George Rogers, one of nine veterans to practice yesterday, is close to signing a new contract with the team, his agent said.
"We are satisfied with our initial negotiations with the Redskins and are progressing rapidly," said Ed Holler, Rogers' attorney in Columbia, S.C. Holler said he expects to be in Washington at the end of the month to discuss the contract with the Redskins.
The contract likely would make Rogers the second- or third-highest paid Redskin, behind Theismann and, perhaps, wide receiver Art Monk.
In January, Monk signed a three-year contract with a base salary of about $600,000, according to a source familiar with Monk's contract. The contract also included retroactive increases in what Monk made in 1984 and 1985.
According to an NFL Players Association survey, Monk made $190,000 in 1985.
Rogers made $450,000 last season, behind only running back John Riggins, who made about $825,000. The Redskins waived Riggins in March.
It is believed that Rogers would sign a new contract that would pay him close to what Monk is making, with no signing bonus.
"There will be no holdout, no problems," Holler said of Rogers. "You can quote me. I don't like that. I want him to get all the work he can, get in shape and play."
Two Redskins who have had knee surgery are practicing this week at minicamp; two are not.
Defensive tackle Bob Slater, the team's top draft choice in 1984 who has not played a down in a regular-season game, and safety Ken Coffey, injured in the 1985 preseason, practiced yesterday.
Defensive tackle Darryl Grant and offensive guard R.C. Thielemann will miss minicamp because of their knee injuries.
Nine veterans were among the 70 players who practiced yesterday under clear blue skies at Redskin Park: quarterbacks Schroeder and Babe Laufenberg, offensive linemen Dan McQuaid (a tackle who is working at guard this week), Raleigh McKenzie and Doug Barnett, running backs Rogers and Reggie Branch, as well as Slater and Coffey.
Two draft choices, linebacker Ravin Caldwell and wide receiver Eric Yarber, missed practice because of knee injuries.
Rogers said yesterday he gave each of the Redskins offensive linemen a free trip after he rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season . . . The Redskins signed another free agent, University of Miami offensive tackle Paul Bertucelli. The roster now stands at 115 players. The regular-season limit is 45.