Plenty of nickels: DB Jennings agrees with Seahawks
First-round cornerback Kelly Jennings, who is expected to quickly challenge for a nickel job in the Seattle Seahawks' secondary and perhaps push incumbent Kelly Herndon for the starting left cornerback spot later in the 2006 season, has reached agreement with the club on a five-year contract.
The deal has a maximum value of about $9.5 million.
"All done. That's where I'm going now," Jennings told The Associated Press as he headed off to sign the contract.
A former University of Miami star, Jennings was overshadowed early in his Hurricanes career by Antrel Rolle, the Arizona Cardinals' first-round choice in the 2005 draft. The departure of Rolle brought more focus to Jennings, and he responded by emerging as one of the nation's premier coverage defenders.
Although he lacks ideal size (5-feet-10 3/4, 178 pounds), Jennings is a very fluid athlete, a cornerback who can break quickly out of his backpedal and run deep with almost any receiver. But Jennings also plays bigger than his size and is not shy about getting physical with wideouts.
The two sides had closed in on a deal over the last few days and finished the final details on Sunday.
A onetime high school wide receiver, Jennings redshirted in 2001 and then earned a starting spot at right cornerback the following year. He was switched to nickel cornerback in 2004, then started on the left side his final two college seasons.
Jennings finished with 123 tackles, six interceptions, 23 passes defended and four forced fumbles.
Seattle coach Mike Holmgren had expressed frustrated on Saturday that Jennings was not in camp on time.
"For the life of me, I've never understood that deal: All of a sudden everyone's frantic on the Friday before camp and then, bang, bang, bang, bang, everyone signs," he told the AP. "Why don't they start on Wednesday? But they don't do it that way. I don't know. That's why I don't negotiate contracts any more."
-- Len Pasquarelli
Rams agree to terms with Hill
Tye Hill was ready to start working out with the St. Louis Rams as soon as his contract was done.
After spending the previous two nights in a hotel near Rams Park as negotiations neared completion, the Rams' first-round pick signed the contract on Sunday night. It is a four-year deal worth $11.1 million, ESPN.com's John Clayton reports.
"I'm glad I was already here, so it cut the travel out of the way," said Hill, a cornerback from Clemson who lives in St. George, S.C. "So, I'm ready to go."
In fact, Hill said he drove past Rams Park on Friday just to check out the surroundings.
"I'll tell you all a secret: I was over here for a short period of time," Hill told reporters. "I just saw a lot of cameras and I saw a lot of cars."
Hill missed the first six practices. But he attended meetings later Sunday night and expected to be on the field for the first of two practices on Monday.
Coach Scott Linehan found out that the deal had been finalized about 20 minutes into Sunday's afternoon practice. He said Hill had a lot of remedial work ahead of him.
"He's got to catch up," Linehan said. "Those other guys have taken full advantage of their opportunity to get a head start.
"Tye's going to have to spend some extra time, but we're certainly glad to get it done, and we're happy both sides were able to get it done."
Both Hill and the Rams said the lack of first-round signings until recent days, rather than the length of the contract, held up the deal.
The Rams were impressed that Hill came to town before the deal was done. That was a big change from last year's first-round holdout, offensive tackle Alex Barron, who held out for two weeks and then practiced for the first time three days later.
"We all know a lot of situations sometimes when a contract gets agreed to where suddenly the player starts packing and it takes about two or three days," president of football operations Jay Zygmunt said. "It's wonderful and he was excited, and that says a lot about him and how anxious he was to get in here."
Hill said his participation in minicamps will help him get up to speed with the defense. His biggest worry was a heat wave, with temperatures near 100 degrees with high humidity on Sunday.
"I don't think I have a lot of catching up to do," Hill said. "The thing for me right now is just to go in and be able to compete in this weather because it's hot.
"I've been running, but football shape is a little different."
Hill enters a crowded competition at cornerback, a weak spot on a 31st-ranked defense last year that has undergone a major upgrade. Both starters, Jerametruis Butler and Travis Fisher, have recovered from injuries that left them on injured reserve at the end of the season, and the Rams signed free-agent Fakhir Brown, who had four starts last year for the Saints.
"It's too early to say who's going to be starting, but he's got a long way to go to catch up to where those other guys are," Linehan said. "It's going to be a battle at that spot."
-- Associated Press
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