The Washington Redskins, hoping to tie up loose ends before the first wave of players reports to training camp in Carlisle, Pa., on Sunday, have the usual long line of unsigned veterans and rookies and are spending this week attempting to get names on dotted lines.
It's the usual mad rush, more so this year since signings of veterans and rookies around the league are going slowly. The Redskins have signed only one of their 10 draft choices -- third-rounder Mohammed Elewonibi -- but faced much the same circumstances last year when they signed eight rookies the day before training camp.
Veterans Gerald Riggs, Darryl Grant, Jeff Bostic, Don Warren, Monte Coleman and four other Redskins also are unsigned with many of the negotiations probably headed for eleventh-hour settlements.
Riggs and Grant clearly are the toughest signees and both could be headed for holdouts. However, General Manager Charley Casserly had even tougher jobs last year when Ricky Sanders and Darrell Green weren't signed until days before training camp.
"All I can say is we're working on all of them," said Casserly. "Everyone wants to get it done and we'll see if we can. This is not so different than what you face every year."
Some NFL personnel people believe signings are coming slower than usual this year because the National Football League Players Association is orchestrating a kind of mass holdout to raise salaries. NFLPA officials deny this, although they admit to giving players advice about what they should accept.
"It is getting slower," said Leigh Steinberg, a prominent NFL agent. "I think it's more the slotting. Teams don't negotiate for a players' skills, but for where he was taken in the draft. It takes a lot of the individuality out of it."
Nevertheless, this isn't Casserly's easiest week of the year. Beginning from the top of his list, here are his biggest problems:
Riggs: This may be where Casserly earns his money. The running back made $530,000 last season and the two sides have pretty much agreed that his new deal will be for four years. The problem is salary. Riggs is believed to be asking for around a $1 million base. The Redskins are offering a much lower base and will give Riggs the $1 million only if he stays healthy.
Riggs's agents say he's one of the NFL's top backs; the Redskins say he was injured much of last season and that he must come in and win the starting job from Earnest Byner.
"I think we've made a little progress," said Kurt Schoeptler of IMG, Riggs's representative. "We've certainly got other situations that look bleaker."
Grant: He earned $357,500 last year at defensive tackle and is believed to be asking for about $1 million per season. That puts him in a class with Art Monk and Charles Mann and the Redskins aren't about to give him that. He's representing himself, and could be a holdout.
Cary Conklin: Yes, a fourth-round draft pick could be a problem. The two sides haven't made anything approaching progress, but Steinberg, his agent, said Conklin, a quarterback, would be in camp on time, although league rules prevent him from practicing. That could be a high price for a player who figures to play, maybe, a couple of quarters and will get most of his exposure in rookie scrimmages. "That wouldn't be productive," Steinberg said. "But there is a difference of opinion on what he's worth. My feeling is that quarterbacks are always rated apart from others taken in the draft. Charley doesn't agree."
Mark Rypien: He's due to make $250,000 this year and the Redskins want to tear up their starting quarterback's contract and write him a new one. It isn't a high priority item since he's signed and the two sides haven't agreed on either years or money.