First-round draft pick Sean Taylor reported to Redskins Park yesterday afternoon to sign a six-year contract worth a maximum of about $40 million, according to league sources, and said he expects to participate in the final day of the Washington Redskins' passing camp today. Selected fifth overall, the safety became the first player taken among the top 10 picks to sign a deal, capping a highly effective week of negotiations.
Taylor says he will now be able to focus solely on football after a tumultuous past few months that included his firing his original agent, suffering an irritated eye from a hazing prank gone awry and being fined $25,000 by the NFL for failing to attend the duration of a mandatory rookie symposium. Washington will give the 21-year-old every opportunity to start immediately, and his signing means the club will have all players present and under contract when full training camp opens Saturday.
"I'm really happy to have all of the business side of it out of the way and all of the agent issues out of the way and to get back to football," Taylor said during yesterday's news conference shortly after flying in from his home in Florida. "That's what I'm here to do, play football. I'm very happy to be here in Washington and just becoming one more of those players to that legacy of Washington football."
The Redskins did not release the terms of Taylor's contract, but league sources said it includes $13.045 million in bonuses payable over the first three years of the deal. Taylor's base salary will rise from $230,000 this season to $1.015 million in 2009. His incentives can scale up to nearly $9 million a season, and he will achieve his maximum bonus payout in any given season should he reach the Pro Bowl. He will count $2.16 million against the salary cap this season.
Taylor did not complete his team of agents -- Jeff Moorad, Eugene Mato and Scott Parker -- until last Tuesday, but mere hours after being notified on that decision, Vice President of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato and team salary cap manager Eric Schaffer made plans to fly to Moorad's office in Newport Beach, Calif., for meetings. By Friday, many of the principles of an agreement were in place.
Moorad, who has a host of elite clients, cited the willingness of team officials to fly to California so quickly as a key to getting a deal done in short order, saying, "It put this negotiation on the fast track."
In turn, Moorad and Parker flew to Washington on Monday morning unannounced to reciprocate that gesture; the parties were originally scheduled for a 1 p.m. conference call. That initiative impressed the Redskins and further expedited the process. Team owner Daniel Snyder participated in the final negotiating sessions, and shortly before midnight Monday a deal was completed.
"When you get an agent -- a super agent or whatever -- they have the confidence," Cerrato said, "and they don't care what other people do around them. . . . We're very appreciative of that to get it done, otherwise we'd probably be waiting a long time for Sean to get here."
Taylor declined to address his fine (he had not appealed his penalty as of yesterday, league sources said) or to elaborate on why he left the rookie symposium, but did say that he fired his original agent, Drew Rosenhaus, two days after being drafted because "it wasn't a good fit for me at that time."
The Redskins began worrying about Taylor's lack of representation earlier this month, when Cerrato repeatedly urged him to get an agent so talks could begin. Taylor dabbled with representing himself or using a Miami-based attorney before choosing Moorad's group after having a long talk with former University of Miami star Edgerrin James, another client of Moorad's.
The Redskins performed an exhaustive background check on Taylor before drafting him, interviewing various people who had come into contact with him -- "This was the most researched thing in the history of sports," Coach Joe Gibbs said -- and came away duly impressed, while Taylor vowed to learn from the various incidents that have occurred since being drafted.
"It's a transition and there are bumps and bruises through that transition," Taylor said. "And it's how well you shake those things off and become a man through the whole situation, even a better man. So I don't think it was rough at all. It's just the life of being a pro athlete; you've got to change a whole bunch of things you do and structure the way you go about your business in a different way."