Bears are only team to have signed draft picks
Make it the Chicago Bears 2 and the rest of the NFL 0 on the draft pick signing scoreboard.
The defending NFC champions on Wednesday signed fifth-round selection Kevin Payne, a safety from Louisiana-Monroe, to a four-year contract. It marked the second straight day in which the Bears, the only team in the league to have any of its draft choices under contract, reached an accord with a 2007 selection.
Third-round tailback Garrett Wolfe of Northern Illinois on Tuesday signed a four-year, $2.288 million contract that included a $623,0000 signing bonus and an escalator that could increase his base salary for the final season of the deal.
Payne also signed a four-year contract with an escalator in the final season. The basic contract totals $1.815 million, with the potential to earn more based on playing time and interceptions. It includes a $150,000 signing bonus and league-minimum base salaries of $285,000 (for 2007), $370,000 (2008), $460,000 (2009) and $550,000 (2010). The signing bonus represents about an 8 percent increase over the same fifth-round slot in 2006.
Chicago was the first team in the league last year to have all its draft choices under contract, with director of player contracts Cliff Stein finishing all seven of the Bears' rookie deals three weeks before the start of training camp. The task will be a little more difficult this year. The Bears had nine selections last month, two more than in 2006. And unlike a year ago, when Chicago didn't have a No. 1 selection, there is a first-round pick, University of Miami tight end Greg Olsen, to sign.
Still, the Bears, again adopting a proactive stance in negotiations, are off to a quick start.
"They are making a concerted effort to get their picks signed and it's a wise approach by Cliff and Jerry [Angelo, general manager], I think," said agent Albert Elias, who met with Stein in Dallas last week and then flew to Chicago on Wednesday morning to complete the contract. "They're out there, trying hard to finish up deals."
Payne was the first of the team's two choices in the fifth round, the 167th player selected overall. Given his relative lack of experience at safety, Payne figures to contribute mostly on special teams as a rookie. But the former Louisiana-Monroe standout was regarded as one of the best pure athletes in the draft and a quick learner, and the Bears coaches project that he will be a starter down the road.
In two seasons at safety, Payne started in 20 of 24 appearances and had 185 tackles, seven tackles for losses, six interceptions, four passes defensed, one sack, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Payne began his career as a tailback and actually played there and as a slot receiver his first two college seasons. He rushed for 1,234 yards and eight touchdowns and had 54 catches for 607 yards and four touchdowns, appearing in 22 games on offense.
Payne has prototype safety dimensions (6-feet-0¼, 220 pounds) and excellent flexibility. At the combine workouts, he was clocked at just 4.60 in the 40-yard dash but then ran in the high 4.4s during campus auditions.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.
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