Defensive end to sign three-year, $1.39M contract

Updated: July 21, 2005, 7:03 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Third-round defensive end Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns, whose speed off the edge makes him an appropriate fit for an Indianapolis Colts defense predicated on upfield quickness, has reached agreement on his first NFL contract.

The former University of Kentucky standout, a three-year starter for the Wildcats after transferring from Northern Arizona, will sign a three-year, $1.39 million contract. The deal includes a signing bonus of $464,100 and minimum base salaries of $230,000 (for 2005), $310,000 (2006) and $385,000 (2007).

Burns is the second of the Colts' 10 choices to reach an agreement but only the fifth first-day player leaguewide to strike a deal. There are only about 85 agreements leaguewide from a draft pool of 255 players. None of the first-round choices has agreements. Only two second-rounders have deals and Burns is just the third player in the third round to reach a contract agreement.

The Colts report to training camp next Wednesday.

The 92nd player chosen overall, Burns, 23, is an undersized defender (6-feet-0 3/8 and 267 pounds), but coach Tony Dungy typically prefers quickness and speed over stature. The Colts have one of the smallest defensive lines in the NFL and, with his raw pass-rush skills, Burns should have a chance to be at least at situational contributor as a rookie. He may also log extended playing time in training camp, given that defensive end Dwight Freeney, the league's sack leader in 2004, could miss some time early on as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

Some teams, but not necessarily the Colts, feel that Burns will eventually play linebacker in the NFL.

In his three seasons at Kentucky, Burns started 33 games and posted 168 tackles, with 37 of them for losses, and 5½ sacks. He also had five forced fumbles, four recoveries and three passes defensed. The Valdosta, Ga., native demonstrated durability and toughness in 2004, starting in nine games despite a severe high ankle sprain that slowed him.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.