Lawrence Taylor didn't get all that he wanted, but then few do.

So the New York Giants' outside linebacker, considered by many to be the best in the game, yesterday ended his 44-day holdout and settled for a reported three-year, $4.5 million contract that apparently will make him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL.

"Nobody gets exactly what they wanted," Taylor said at a news conference yesterday, the Associated Press reported.

"It's not like that. I'd look kind of stupid bitching at the money I will be making because it is good money," said Taylor, who added that he knew he would eventually sign with the Giants. Taylor is expected to play Sunday night when the Giants open the regular season against the Philadelphia Eagles in East Rutherford, N.J.

No figures on the contract were released but Taylor's agent, Joe Courrege, said the deal would make Taylor, 31, the highest-paid defender. The New York Daily News reported his base salary as $1.55 million, $1.5 million and $1.45 million.

Minnesota's Chris Doleman reportedly is negotiating a contract that could pay him close to what Taylor is making with this deal. Philadelphia's Reggie White reportedly will make $1.51 million this season.

During Taylor's holdout, there were several rumors about possible trades involving the all-pro linebacker. There was discussion of a three-way deal involving Houston and even a trade to the rival Eagles. Philadelphia Coach Buddy Ryan was pleased with the idea, but Giants General Manager George Young said at the time that no deals were in the works.

Courrege said yesterday that the Eagles were trying to attract Taylor's interest long enough to keep him out of Sunday's game.

"We felt that was their hip-pocket motive all along," Courrege said.

"They had said they would pay Lawrence the money, but the other consideration on that was that they were going to try to keep him out of the football game Sunday by stalling it along. We knew that, so I went there {on Tuesday} to tell {Eagles President} Harry Gamble to put an offer on the table in writing or they would play against Taylor rather than with him."

Young said by phone yesterday that he thought Taylor's desire to play and some "massaging" of numbers were the reasons for the breakthrough in negotiations.

"I think the most important thing is the player's professionalism," Young said. "I don't believe he wanted to miss the first game. He's a competitor.

"I take nothing for granted in these things, I'm never cocky and I always expect the unexpected. But I know his professionalism, and I knew that if he didn't get in {to camp to practice} today, it would be difficult to play Sunday."

There had been suggestions that the Giants' concerns about Taylor's off-field problems were holding up the contract negotiations. Taylor, who was suspended for the first four games of the 1988 season for a second positive drug test, would be banned from playing if he tests positive a third time. Young, however, said that issue had nothing to do with the negotiations.

"Whatever drug problem he has, that is his devil to deal with," Young said. "He knows that if he flunks, then he won't be playing. I don't belabor him with that."

In the end, it boiled down to money and both accepted a little less than they would have liked.

"Hey, it's always the money," Young said with a laugh. "It's not the principle, it's the money."