Against a backdrop of particularly slow rookie negotiations around the NFL, Bucs second-round pick Brian Price broke from the pack and signed a four-year contract Tuesday, making him by far the highest-drafted player to sign.
It was an encouraging development as many clubs brace for intense negotiations and, perhaps, rookie holdouts.
Teams begin training camps in the next week, yet Price is only the second second-round selection to sign. No first-round picks have signed. Before Tampa Bay's 35th overall pick signed, the Jets' Vladimir Ducasse (61st) was the highest draft choice under contract.
"I'm glad my agent got the deal done, so now I can concentrate on having a great training camp," Price said in a statement released by the Bucs. "I'm looking forward to contributing to the Buccaneers' dominant defensive tradition."
The Bucs have three unsigned rookies: first-round pick Gerald McCoy, second-round choice Arrelious Benn and seventh-rounder Cody Grimm. Signing Grimm is considered a formality. Negotiations aimed at signing Benn and, particularly, McCoy will prove more difficult.
All teams have similar concerns as agents and clubs navigate an environment where a work stoppage could loom next year and no collective bargaining agreement exists beyond this season. So the structure of contracts for early-round picks, who receive considerable guaranteed money, is difficult.
Also, agents are trying to maximize deals because there is a distinct possibility any new labor agreement will include a rookie salary cap, beginning next year.
Still, Price — last year's Pac-10 defensive player of the year at UCLA — worked around those challenges. His agent, Chuck Price (no relation) said his client's approach to negotiations and eagerness to take the field made it possible.
"We zeroed in on what would be a very fair deal," Chuck Price said. "It couldn't help to be caught up in the feeding frenzy with all these other deals. We weren't looking for a Sam Bradford deal. We're not trying to set records. I was trying to help him reach his dream."
Chuck Price declined to give financial specifics of the four-year deal but described it as "solid" and "very, very fair."
He added that Brian Price "is ready to go. He has a lot to prove. He loves football. … Him getting a deal done now is consistent with who he is."
McCoy, the third overall pick, is in line to receive a deal approaching $60 million. Those talks are stagnant, nine days before the Bucs are scheduled to report July 30. McCoy has said he is willing to wait for Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick, to sign with the Rams before agreeing to terms.
Around the league
NO FAVRE DECISION: Brett Favre told USA Today that he didn't discuss a deadline for making a decision on playing this season during a recent visit with Vikings coach Brad Childress.
RUSSELL PLEA: Former Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell pleaded not guilty to a charge of illegal drug possession in a court in Mobile, Ala.
SIGNINGS: The Panthers signed third-round draft pick Brandon LaFell, a wide receiver from LSU. … The Dolphins signed third-rounder and former Mississippi guard John Jerry for four years for $1.8 million in base salary.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.