Steelers solidify defense

Posted: Thursday, July 25, 2002

The defense that topped the NFL last season got another multimillionaire Wednesday when defensive end Aaron Smith signed a five-year, $25-million contract extension with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Smith, who had eight sacks last season, signed a few hours before the Steelers officially opened camp in Latrobe, Pa. His new deal is comparable to a $22.5 million deal signed by linebacker Joey Porter, a $23 million deal signed by all-Pro linebacker Jason Gildon, and a $25.25 million contract signed by cornerback Chad Scott.

The Steelers have locked up every key player on their defense for at least the next five seasons, except safety Lee Flowers, who may be allowed to become a free agent after the 2002 season.

The 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pound Smith has 13 sacks while starting 31 games the last three seasons. He was threatening to stay out until the 10th game of the season if he had not been able to reach the extension.

The signing leaves first-round draft choice Kendall Simmons as the Steelers' only unsigned player, but he is reportedly close to reaching terms.

Ariko Iso was hired by the Steelers as an assistant athletic trainer, making her the NFL's first full-time female trainer.

Iso spent the last five seasons as the head football trainer at Portland State. She worked as an intern at the last two Steelers training camps.

Giants

Kerry Collins agreed to a two-year contract extension that will keep him in New York through the 2004 season.

Collins, who would have become a free agent after this season, will earn $15.4 million over the next three seasons. The deal will create enough salary cap room to enable the Giants to re-sign backup quarterback Jason Garrett.

Collins, who led the Giants to the Super Bowl in 2000, would have earned $4 million this season in the final year of a four-year $16 million contract.

Collins will receive a $5.85 million signing bonus, but his salary this year will drop to $650,000. Over the next two years, he will earn a combined $8 million to $9 million.

Jaguars

Jacksonville signed second-round draft pick Mike Pearson to a four-year contract, less than 24 hours before the team reports to training camp.

Pearson, who left the University of Florida a year early, is expected to compete for the job left open when the Jaguars lost left tackle Tony Boselli to Houston in the expansion draft.

The Jaguars' Web site said that Pearson signed a deal that included a $1.7 million signing bonus with annual salaries of $225,000, $300,000, $380,000 and $455,000, all the league minimum.

Broncos

Denver is making progress in signing draft picks Ashley Lelie and Clinton Portis but is having problems negotiating with free-agent kicker Jason Elam.

The Broncos and Elam's agent Jack Reale have had no discussions about a long-term contract extension since February, when the team designated Elam its franchise player, with a $1.465 million contract tender offer.

The sides are prohibited from discussing a long-term extension until the one-year franchise tender is signed.

It was unclear whether Elam, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, would sign the franchise tender before players reported to training camp Thursday.

''I'd rather not talk about it until I speak further with the Broncos,'' Reale said Tuesday. ''I'm cautiously optimistic that Jason's numbers do speak for themselves. The Broncos will have some perspective, and it'll probably all wind up getting done.''

Denver also signed Swedish kicker Ola Kimrin and waived defensive end Paul Toviessi and guard Jay Humphrey.

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Saints

Cornerback Keyuo Craver, a fourth-round draft pick, agreed to terms on a three-year contract. The team also announced that cornerback Kevin Mathis failed a physical and was released.

Craver was a three-year starter at Nebraska, setting a record for Cornhuskers defensive backs with 192 career tackles.

The Saints have two picks unsigned -- linebacker James Allen and tight end James Gilmore.

Mathis, attempting to return from a neck injury, was cut after failing a physical.

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Eagles

Philadelphia signed cornerback Lito Sheppard, its first-round draft pick, and also was talking to veteran wide receiver Antonio Freeman.

The Eagles had no comment on talks with Freeman, one of the stars of the Green Bay team that won the 1997 Super Bowl.

But his agent, Joel Segal, said talks were continuing.

''We've had good conversations with the Eagles as we've had with other teams, but nothing is imminent,'' Segal said.

Freeman, 30, was released by the Packers in a cost-cutting move on June 3. He was due to earn a base salary of $4.3 million this season and count $5.728 million against the Packers' salary cap in the fourth year of what was a seven-year, $42 million deal signed after the 1998 season.

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Panthers

Carolina will open training camp without the services of Patrick Jeffers, who the Panthers hoped would be this year's starting wide receiver.

Jeffers, who has caught only 14 passes the past two seasons and who underwent five knee operations in the last two years, is not expected to pass the team's physical exam on Friday when players report to training camp, head coach John Fox said.

Jeffers had his latest knee operation in April and has not returned to practice since.

''He's definitely not ready yet,'' Fox said.

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Bears

First-round draft choice Marc Colombo agreed to a five-year, $5.6 million contract with the Chicago Bears. The deal includes a $3.1 million signing bonus.

The Bears have either signed or agreed to contracts with all their draft choices. They report to camp on Thursday, and begin workouts Friday.

The Bears also agreed to three-year deals with defensive end Alex Brown, linebacker Bryan Knight, running back Adrian Peterson, tight end Bryan Fletcher, and wide receiver Jamin Elliott.

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Jets

Guard Jonathan Goodwin, the Jets' fifth-round draft pick, signed along with free agent wide receiver Kahmal Roy of Hofstra.

Goodwin, a 318-pound guard from Michigan, was a two-year starter at Michigan after transferring from Ohio University in 1998. He was All-Big Ten last season. He has played left guard primarily but also saw action at right guard and left tackle.

Roy broke current Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet's record for single-season receiving yards at Hofstra in 2001.

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Redskins

Backup cornerback and special teams player Kato Serwanga had surgery on his right knee and will miss 2-to-3 months. He hurt the knee during Tuesday's practice.

Trainer Dean Kleinschmidt said Tuesday's practice in stifling heat and humidity caused one player to lose eight pounds, and the average weight loss was five pounds.

The weather was cooler and more comfortable Wednesday.

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Bengals

Travis Dorsch agreed to terms on a three-year contract, giving the kicker a chance to win the job in training camp.

Dorsch is a fourth-round draft pick from Purdue, where he set several punting and kicking records.

He has the inside track on winning the job as the Bengals prepare to open training camp Thursday in Georgetown, Ky. Incumbent Neil Rackers has made 29 of 49 field-goal attempts in two seasons.

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Packers

Top draft pick Javon Walker, fresh off signing a five-year, $6.7 million contract that could be worth up to $9.5 million over six seasons, participated in the first workout for rookies.

By the time veterans report for the beginning of two-a-day sessions Saturday, coach Mike Sherman said he expects to have everybody in camp, including fullback Najeh Davenport, the team's last unsigned draft pick, and veteran defensive end Vonnie Holliday, who wanted a contract extension by now.



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