Bulaga signing could fill out roster today
Unless something goes terribly wrong in the next 24 hours, the Green Bay Packers are going to have every member of their 82-man roster signed when their first training camp practice is held this weekend.
Two sources indicated Wednesday that first-round pick Bryan Bulaga, the lone Packer still unsigned, was in striking distance of an agreement and was likely to be in camp on time. Given that team negotiator Russ Ball has only one contract to work on, there should be plenty of time for him to get a deal done with Bulaga.
Ball and Bulagaís agent have had extensive talks this week, and there donít appear to be many road blocks. Aiding the negotiation is the fact the only first-round picks to sign so far were chosen near Bulaga, the No. 23 pick.
Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant (No. 24) and New England cornerback Devin McCourty (No. 27) set the market for that region, and Bulaga and the Packers should be able to work off those deals. Bryantís contract isnít considered out of the ordinary, and itís reasonable to expect Bulaga will receive slightly more than the $11.8 million total and $8.4 million guaranteed the Cowboys rookie received.
Last year, the Packers had to wait 12 days before top pick B.J. Raji reached agreement, leading to 14 missed practices and a slow start to the season. Before that, a Packers top pick hadnít missed more than one practice since quarterback Aaron Rodgers missed eight in 2005.
The Packersí first practice is at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The Packers have signed all six of their other draft picks at a cost of about $2.6 million in rookie salary cap space, leaving them about $1.2 million to get the Bulaga deal done, according to a source with access to NFL playersí association salary information. The $1.2 million does not reflect how much Bulaga will receive this season, but rather is a symbol of him commanding a third of the rookie salary cap space the Packers were allotted.
Though the NFL does not have a roster-wide salary cap this year because of the owners opting out of the collective bargaining agreement, the rookie cap is still intact. Each team is allotted a specific amount of money based on the number of picks it had and the position in which they were taken. The Packersí rookie pool this year is $3.863 million.
Signings in the first round have been slow, but the pace should start to pick up as teams report for practice.
The Packersí last unsigned veteran to come into the fold was safety Atari Bigby, whose agent told numerous media outlets Tuesday that his one-year tender offer had been signed. However, because the Packers are two over the 80-man roster limit, they have not turned in the contract to the league office.
Once Bigby and Bulaga are officially signed, the Packers will have to make two roster moves to get down to 80. They could place players recovering from injuries on the physically unable to perform list. Candidates would be cornerbacks Al Harris (knee) and Will Blackmon (knee), tight end Spencer Havner (shoulder), tackle T.J. Lang (wrist) and receiver Donald Driver (knees). Players on the PUP can be activated at any time, but a roster spot must be made for them.
Under coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers have been cautious with players coming off injuries, and they probably wonít hesitate to keep a few off the field early in camp.
Dollars and cents: Second-round pick Mike Neal received the largest signing bonus of the six draft picks who signed, pulling in $1.16 million as soon as he put ink to paper.
Here are the signing bonuses given the others:
S Morgan Burnett, third round, $875,100; TE Andrew Quarless, fifth round, $182,425; OT Marshall Newhouse, fifth round, $149,850; RB James Starks, sixth round, $100,300; and DE C.J. Wilson, seventh round, $50,354.
All six signed four-year deals and will receive base salaries of $320,000 this year, $405,000 in 2011, $490,000 in 2012 and $575,000 in 2013.