Falcons get top pick into camp

Originally Published: August 2, 2004
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The man who hopes to make Atlanta Falcons fans forget "Prime Time" was hardly on time getting to training camp, but figures to more than compensate for his tardy arrival now that his contract issues have been resolved.

The Falcons reached a contract agreement in principle late Monday night with former Virginia Tech cornerback DeAngelo Hall, the 10th overall player chosen in this year's draft, ESPN.com has learned. Hall immediately will step into a starting position, at left cornerback, for the NFL's most porous defense.

Hall will sign what is essentially a five-year deal -- he will void the sixth season merely by reaching minimum playing time benchmarks -- and he probably will receive the highest signing bonus in franchise history. Complete contract details were not yet available, but it is expected Hall will receive between $12 million and $13 million in upfront money.

The $11 million paid to quarterback Michael Vick in 2001 is, until now, the biggest signing bonus in Falcons history.

Agent Joel Segal arrived Sunday evening at the Falcons' training camp site at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., and he and team president Rich McKay negotiated that night, and then resumed discussions on Monday morning.

The agreement with Hall means there are six first-round picks still unsigned.

Potentially a true shut-down cornerback, and a player who also can contribute to the return game, Hall began working with the No. 1 defense in offseason sessions. Earlier this week, coach Jim Mora, who has described Hall as possessing "athletic arrogance," said the rookie cornerback will not lose his starting job despite missing the first few days of training camp.

Clearly, the organization feels Hall is a special player. In fact, he was assigned No. 21, the same uniform number worn by Deion "Prime Time" Sanders, the Falcons' top pick in the 1989 draft, and a future Hall of Fame member. The confident Hall fancies himself a Sanders-type performer, a defender who can impact a game, and its outcome, in a variety of ways. The Virginia Tech coaches actually compared his athleticism to that of another former Hokies star, the electrifying Vick.

In 36 games, including 24 starts, Hall recorded 190 tackles, eight interceptions, 20 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one recovery. He returned 56 punts for an average of 15.0 yards and five touchdowns, caught seven passes for 86 yards and one score, and rushed twice for 21 yards and a touchdown.

Hall, who won't even turn 21 until November, bypassed his final year of eligibility to enter this year's draft.

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

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