tampabay.com

Bucs, top pick agree on deal

By RICK STROUD
Published July 22, 2004


TAMPA - Sponsors and season-ticket holders were treated to inside information by Bucs officials at a marketing banquet for their Pewter Partners on Wednesday night.

The team had reached an agreement in principle with first-round pick Michael Clayton.

The revelation satisfied the appetites of Tampa Bay's fans starving for news just nine days before the start of training camp.

The deal, expected to be six years and which should be worth about $13- to $14-million including a signing bonus of $6- to $7-million, was struck after two full days of negotiations between representatives of Clayton and Bucs officials and announced at the dinner attended by coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen.

Clayton's insistence that he sign before players report to training camp July 30, combined with other high-profile clients represented by his agents, such as Giants quarterback Eli Manning, resulted in a quick agreement.

As the 15th overall pick, Clayton becomes the highest-selected player in the draft to agree to a deal and only the third first-round choice to do so. Patriots tackle Vince Wilfork (No. 21 overall) and Texans linebacker Josh Babin (No. 27) also have agreements.

Although all of the base salaries and signing bonus had been agreed to, some elements of the contract still had to be worked out.

The contract can be voided after five years if Clayton reaches certain playing incentives, according to ESPN.com.

Despite reports of leaking the news at a banquet, the Bucs could not confirm they had struck a deal with Clayton on Wednesday.

Agents Tom Condon and Ken Kremer of the International Management Group met Tuesday and much of Wednesday with Allen and other team officials.

Neither Allen nor Bucs coach Jon Gruden were available for comment. However, Gruden repeatedly praised Clayton for his maturity and work habits during the minicamp last month.

"We're going to again play a lot of different personnel groupings, use a lot of different receivers," Gruden said. "Michael Clayton gives us size, speed. It gives us play-making. It gives us a real physical presence on the offensive side of the ball, and we're very excited about it."

A three-year standout at LSU, Clayton helped lead the Tigers to a co-national championship with a career-best 78 catches for 1,079 yards. He had 21 career touchdowns in 31 starts.