Steelers, Raiders, Chargers sign top draft picks

Updated: July 27, 2005, 12:16 AM ET news services

Pittsburgh Steelers: Continuing the momentum created with Monday's flurry of signings, the Pittsburgh Steelers on Tuesday reached agreement with first-round tight end Heath Miller, the 30th player chosen overall in this year's draft.

The former University of Virginia star, the lone tight end selected in the opening round, will sign a five-year, $6.89 million contract. The deal, principally negotiated by Ken Kremer of IMG Football, includes guaranteed bonuses totaling $4.54 million.

Nicknamed "Big Money" for his knack of making big catches in tough situations, Miller is expected to challenge immediately for the starting job in a Steelers offense that has not gotten much production from the tight end position in the past several years. He figures to provide Pittsburgh a presence in the middle of the field the team has lacked recently and has the ability to split the safeties deep.

Although slowed by offseason injuries that kept him from completing a full workout for most teams, Miller, who won the coveted John Mackey Award in 2004 as the nation's top tight end, was the consensus premier player at the position in the 2005 draft pool. Even weeks before the draft, the Steelers were rumored to be interested in him because of the extra dimension he might add to their passing attack.

Not an especially overpowering blocker, the 6-feet-5, 256-pound Miller will need to work on that area of his game. As a receiver, though, his skills are highly developed and he is especially effective in "red zone" situations. The Pittsburgh coaches and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger awarded Miller high grades in the team's offseason workouts.

In 39 college appearances, all of them starts, Miller totaled 144 receptions for 1,703 yards and 20 touchdowns.
-- senior writer Len Pasquarelli

San Diego Chargers: Defensive tackle Luis Castillo, one of the Chargers' two first-round draft picks, agreed to a five-year contract Tuesday and was expected at the second practice of training camp.

Castillo's deal is potentially worth $7,035,000, including guaranteed money of $4,664,000. He received a signing bonus of $1.38 million and will receive an option bonus of $2.53 million in March.

Talks continued with San Diego's other first-round pick, outside linebacker Shawne Merriman. General manager A.J. Smith said talks with second-round pick Vincent Jackson have broken down.

Chargers rookies and selected veterans opened camp with a practice Tuesday morning.

Castillo, taken with the 28th pick, tested positive for androstenedione at the scouting combine in February. He later said it was ``a huge mistake'' in taking the steroid to help his performance at the scouting combine after he was slow to heal from an elbow injury sustained his senior year at Northwestern.

True to his pledge on draft day, Castillo had a clause inserted in his contract stating he will forfeit his bonus money if he ever has another positive drug test.

"Oh yeah, that's in there," he said. "That was no joke about that. I said we would do it and we did it."
-- The Associated Press

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders signed top draft pick Fabian Washington on Tuesday and also added three free agents three days before the team's first training camp practice. senior writer Len Pasquarelli reported that Washington received a five-year deal worth $7.8 million, with $5.3 million guaranteed.

The Raiders, determined to upgrade a defense that was one of the worst in the league last season, selected the speedy cornerback with the 23rd overall pick in the first round of April's draft out of Nebraska.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Washington ran a 4.29 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in February in Indianapolis, but has been clocked at 4.23 and 4.25. The Raiders' biggest priority in the draft was to add speed and upgrade a defense that underachieved in Rob Ryan's first year as coordinator.

The Raiders were 30th overall on defense among the 32 teams, including 30th against the pass (245.2 yards per game) and 22nd versus the run (125.8). Oakland allowed 371 total yards per game.

Oakland also signed safety Calvin Branch and defensive tackles Lorn Mayers and Michael Quarshie.
-- The Associated Press

Minnesota Vikings: TheVikings agreed to terms Tuesday with three draft picks.

They are second round pick Marcus Johnson, an offensive lineman from Mississippi who was the 49th selection overall; fourth round pick Ciatrick Fason, a running back from Florida who was chosen 112th overall; and Adrian Ward, a cornerback from Texas-El Paso who went 219th overall in the seventh round.

Terms were not available. The three are the first of the Vikings' seven draft choices to agree to terms with the team.

The Vikings report to training camp in Mankato, Minn. on Friday.
-- The Associated Press

St. Louis Rams: The Rams and guard Tom Nutten have agreed to a one-year contract

Nutten came out of retirement last season to play eight games for St. Louis, six as a starter at left guard, after the team was hit hard by injuries to the offensive line during the preseason.

He played for the Rams from 1998 through 2002 before signing with the New York Jets as a free agent in 2003. He retired prior to the start of that season due to injuries.

Nutten has started 63 of the 69 games in which he has played.
-- The Associated Press

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts reached an agreement in principle with first-round choice Marlin Jackson.

Jackson, drafted 29th in the first round, accepted a five-year, $6.975 million deal that included $4.350 million in signing, option and reporting bonuses. Signed in time for the start of training camp, Jackson has a chance to compete for playing time at the team's talented cornerback position.

Both sides submitted the contract to the league office for approval, which should occur later Tuesday.

The Colts report to training camp Wednesday at 3 p.m. in Terre Haute, Ind. The Colts have Joseph Jefferson, Nick Harper, Jason Davis and even Donald Strickland on the roster as cornerbacks. There has been talk of moving Strickland to safety.
-- senior writer John Clayton.

New York Giants: Two of four draft picks, running back Brandon Jacobs and defensive end Eric Moore, have agreed to contracts.

Jacobs, who played at Southern Illinois after transferring from Auburn, was taken in the fourth round and Moore, who played at Florida State, was a sixth-round pick.

The team had no first-round choice, trading it away a year ago to move up to draft quarterback Eli Manning. Still to sign are cornerback Corey Webster, the second-round pick, and defensive end Justin Tuck, taken in the third round.
-- The Associated Press

Baltimore Ravens: Justin Green, a fifth-round pick from the University of Montana, signed a three-year contract.

Green rushed for 1,784 yards and 22 touchdowns in two years as the Grizzlies' fullback.

As a senior, the 6-foot, 250-pound Green split time at running back as Montana took runner-up in the Division I-AA championship game. He was voted the Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year in 2003, when he rushed for 1,146 yards and a league-leading 14 touchdowns.

Baltimore also signed sixth-round pick Derek Anderson. Anderson, a quarterback out of Oregon State, signed a three-year deal.

The Ravens open training camp on Monday at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md.
-- The Associated Press

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars signed rookie wide receiver/kick returner Chad Owens on Tuesday, leaving first round selection Matt Jones as the only player not under contract.

The 5-foot-7, 183-pound Owens was the Jags sixth-round draft pick and figures to be the team's top return man this season.

A Honolulu native, Owens finished his four-year career at Hawaii as the school's all-time leader in all-purpose yards, receptions and punt return yards. He led the Warriors with 102 receptions for 1,290 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior, and set the school record with five punts returned for touchdowns in 2004.
-- The Associated Press

Dierdorf named St. Louis tourism chairman
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Former St. Louis Cardinals football star Dan Dierdorf is the governor's choice to serve as chairman of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission.

The 56-year-old St. Louis resident is a member of the Pro Football and College Football halls of fame and is an NFL broadcaster for CBS Sports. He also is owner of two Dierdorf and Hart's steakhouses and part owner of St. Louis radio station KTRS.

His term as commission chairman is to begin Aug. 29, Gov. Matt Blunt's office said Monday.

The governor appoints the chairman of the commission to a two-year term. The 11-member commission is responsible for managing several projects in downtown St. Louis, including the Edward Jones Dome where the St. Louis Rams play football and an adjacent convention center.
-- The Associated Press