Safety Sean Taylor, the Washington Redskins' top draft pick, has hired an agent and is expected to begin contract negotiations with the team immediately, sources with knowledge of the situation said yesterday.
Taylor has been without representation for more than two months, delaying the start of contract talks. Taylor's selection of Eugene Mato eliminates a major obstacle, although the sides will have to move quickly to get a deal done before the start of training camp next week.
Mato has a partnership with Jeffrey Moorad, the founder of Moorad Sports Management of Newport Beach, Calif. They are most widely known for representing baseball stars such as Boston outfielder Manny Ramirez, who signed a $160 million free agent deal with the Red Sox in 2001, but they do have several other NFL clients.
Taylor fired agent Drew Rosenhaus days after being selected as the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft in April. He spoke with several agents before deciding on Mato, who was among the agents Taylor originally considered hiring before selecting Rosenhaus.
Mato declined to comment when contacted yesterday, and Taylor was unavailable to comment. Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said he had no comment.
Legal paperwork binding Taylor and Mato is expected to arrive at the headquarters of the NFL Players Association by today, the final formality in the agent-selection process. Taylor, who played at the University of Miami, was the last first-round pick in this year's draft without an agent; most No. 1 players are deep into negotiations with their teams, and some top picks have begun signing contracts in recent days.
Taylor's deal could be complicated, as few safeties have been selected so high in the draft. The Redskins believe the rookie could be a major contributor to their defense this season and he will be given an opportunity to win a starting job. But failing to agree to contract terms before the start of the team's passing camp Monday -- or by the start of training camp July 30 -- could make it more difficult for him to play immediately under Coach Joe Gibbs.
It will take a hefty financial package to sign the rookie. Defensive back Terence Newman, chosen No. 5 in the 2003 draft by Dallas, received a five-year, $18 million deal from the Cowboys. Taylor is sure to command a similar salary and bonus. The Redskins were initially eager to work with Rosenhaus, who represents several players on the team and has a good relationship with owner Daniel Snyder. The Washington front office believed there was little threat of a holdout with Taylor under Rosenhaus, something that sources said played a role in the team's decision to draft him.
Taylor's teammate at the University of Miami, tight end Kellen Winslow, also drew serious consideration from Washington and is represented by Carl and Kevin Poston, who are involved with a grievance with the team over linebacker LaVar Arrington's contract.
The Redskins have been negotiating with their other two unsigned picks -- tight end Chris Cooley and offensive lineman Mark Wilson -- for weeks and are expected to complete deals for both players before Monday. The team has already signed its final draft pick, offensive lineman Jim Molinaro.