Talks between Washington Redskins officials and the agent for first-round draft pick Champ Bailey are moving along, with both sides hopeful the Georgia cornerback will be signed by the start of training camp July 25.
Jack Reale, Bailey's agent, was at Redskin Park yesterday to meet with General Manager Charley Casserly and visit with his clients on the team.
Asked if he were confident Bailey's deal would get done before camp, Reale said: "I'm not going to give anybody that satisfaction to tell them that in advance. I would hope things are done in ways -- as far as timeliness -- that are good for both the player and the club. It takes two to do that."
Bailey's signing is not expected to hit any snags, but Reale said certain factors have made negotiating deals this season slightly more complicated than last -- such as the extra draft picks necessitated by the expansion Cleveland Browns and the effect that has had on the rookie wage pool.
"But the flexibility is there, within the system, to be able to construct a deal that works, that's fair to both sides and allows the team to do what the team has to do with its other picks," Reale said. "I would hope we can get there sooner rather than later."
Bailey, the seventh overall pick in the draft, said he expected to be in camp in July. "Something would really have to happen for me not to be," Bailey said. "Of course, if I don't sign the contract, then I can't go. But I think we're going to come to an agreement. [Reale] knows I want to be in camp, and he wants me to be in camp. He's going to do everything to get me there -- I know he is."
Reale also represents the Redskins' fourth-round draft pick, linebacker Nate Stimson of Georgia Tech, and their seventh-round draft pick, wide receiver Tim Alexander of Oregon State. It's possible contracts for Stimson and Alexander could be completed over the next few days, Reale said, noting that neither deal was contingent on Bailey's signing.
Shortly after Bailey's selection, Reale indicated he felt the player should be more properly viewed as the fifth pick. The Redskins held the fifth pick in the 1999 draft and clearly wanted Bailey, but traded down for New Orleans's seventh pick, confident that Bailey would be available. That trade yielded several additional picks for the Redskins and enabled the Saints to get Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams, who was coveted by Saints Coach Mike Ditka.
Yesterday Casserly rejected any notion that Bailey would be treated as the fifth pick. "He's the seventh pick in the draft," Casserly said.
Reale acknowledged as much, but stressed his client's rare athletic gifts.
Bailey, 22, played both wide receiver and cornerback and returned kickoffs at Georgia. Earlier this month he was timed as the second-fastest player on the Redskins' roster, trailing only wide receiver Albert Connell in the 40-yard dash.
"On one hand, I recognize he was the seventh pick," Reale said. "On the other hand, I don't think he gives up an inch to any of the players who were drafted ahead of him.
"When all that's said and done, we still have to hammer out a contract, and it's still got to be relevant to the bigger picture what goes on out there. But I don't see that as being a stumbling block."
Williams signed an eight-year, $16.2 million contract in May that included an $8.84 million signing bonus. The deal is laden with incentives that could boost its worth to $68.4 million.
Redskins Notes: Veteran tackle Andy Heck, who played for the Chicago Bears (1994-97) and Seattle Seahawks (1989-93), visited Redskin Park yesterday. Joe Patton and Shar Pourdanesh continue to share duties at left tackle, Heck's specialty, and are expected to compete for the starting job in training camp. . . . Cornerback Darrell Green was given a break from practice yesterday, but remained on the field as both coach and cheerleader for his teammates.
CAPTION: Champ Bailey says he expects to attend the Redskins' opening day of camp July 25. "Something would really have to happen for me not to be" there, he said.