Portis will be highest-paid running back

Originally Published: March 1, 2004
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

In a deal that clears the way for his trade to the Washington Redskins later this week, Denver Broncos tailback Clinton Portis reached agreement Monday on a contract that makes him the highest-paid running back in league history, ESPN.com has learned.

Champ Bailey
Bailey

Clinton Portis
Portis

Portis will sign an eight-year deal that is worth $50.5 million and includes $17 million in combined signing and option bonuses, several league sources confirmed for ESPN.com.

The agreement is a blockbuster not only in terms of the millions of dollars negotiated by agents Drew Rosenhaus and Jason Rosenhaus, but also because the Redskins were not under any pressure to reach a new deal with Portis. The lack of negotiating leverage on the part of Portis, who had said over the weekend that he would not hold out of training camp even if he did not get a new contract, certainly adds to the achievement of netting such a deal.

The Rosenhauses did not immediately return calls.

The contract has not yet been signed, but there are no additional hurdles to clear. The deal will become official later this week, as will Portis' trade to the Redskins for Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round draft choice.

Because of the NFL's annual moratorium on trades, the mega-swap of two of the NFL's brightest young stars cannot be announced until Wednesday.

Portis, 22, still had two seasons remaining on the original four-year contract he signed with the Broncos as a second-round choice in the 2002 draft. That contract paid him a signing bonus of $1.29 million but only minimum base salaries for all four seasons. He was scheduled to earn only $380,000 in 2004 and $455,000 in 2005.

Denver officials had steadfastly balked at renegotiating the contract, part of the reason for the trade. The Broncos did, at one point in the discussions, offer to insure the 2004 portion of the contract.

Technically, because Portis was under contract, the Redskins could have completed the trade without consummating a new deal for the former University of Miami star. In fact, in recent days, team officials had publicly assumed that stance, insisting they were prepared to move ahead with the trade and handle Portis' contract situation later.

But it made no sense, particularly once the Redskins' offer reached record proportions, to delay an agreement.

Portis has rushed for 3,099 yards, eclipsing the 1,500-yard mark in both of his NFL seasons, and 29 touchdowns. He will become the centerpiece for the run-oriented offense favored by new Redskins coach Joe Gibbs.

Bailey is expected to complete a review of his pending contract with the Broncos later Monday and probably sign it Tuesday. Agent Jack Reale sent back to Broncos officials all requested revisions and Monday was awaiting a copy of the contract's final draft. Reale told ESPN.com there were no impediments to completing the deal, beyond reducing the complicated documente to contract language.

ESPN.com has learned that Bailey's contract will be for seven seasons, not the six that has been widely reported. It could make him one of the highest-paid defensive players in league history.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

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