Signing Walker May Not Be Easy

July 16 - Will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign first-round pick Kenyatta Walker in time for the start of training camp on July 29? It won't be easy as Walker has a fair amount of leverage, and his agent, Tom Condon, has his hands full dealing with five other first-round draft picks.

With two weeks until the start of their 2001 training camp, the biggest question regarding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is whether or not No. 1 draft pick Kenyatta Walker make it to camp on time. With all of the team's mid- to late-round draft picks likely to sign rookie contracts in the coming days, the team is expected to begin focusing on signing Walker at the end of the week in hopes to avoid a hold out.

Until 1997, the Bucs had signed virtually every first-round pick pick on the eve of training camp. But the team's last two first-rounders, running back Warrick Dunn ('97) and defensive tackle Anthony McFarland ('99), did hold out for a few days while their contracts were ironed out. The Bucs did not have a first-round pick in 1998 or in 2000, and Dunn's '97 draft class mate, fellow first-rounder Reidel Anthony, did report to camp on time.

But while the Bucs and Walker may talk about wanting to get a deal done prior to training camp, there are a lot of variables which might make signing Walker within the next 14 days a bit of a chore.

Clouding Walker's signing on time might be the fact that he is represented by IMG super agents Tom Condon and Ken Kremer, who set an unofficial NFL record for having the most clients drafted, including six in the first round alone. The fact that IMG represents so many clients in the first round may slow down negotiations between players and teams like the Bucs, who use a slotting method to determine what a player should earn in terms of his rookie contract and bonus.

Rival agent Pat Dye, Jr. told ESPN: "At some point, companies like IMG are just going to spread themselves too thin. They have a huge roster of some 75 clients and they have huge names to deal with at the same time."

But due to the past success of IMG, Walker isn't worried.

"IMG has a lot of guys and they've negotiated good contracts," Walker told ESPN. "When you tell a person or a team you're with IMG, they know you are coming to the table. You can see it in their face."

That stance may help Walker financially, but it may cost him a few critical days of training camp, too. Also muddying the issue of Walker signing on time is the fact that the Bucs have already named him their starting left tackle this season. Walker's stated importance to the team gives him much leverage in negotiating his contract.

The fact that he was a top 10 talent who fell out of the top 10 could also slow negotiations. While Walker shouldn't have slipped in the draft, the fact that he did will force the Bucs to pay him as the No. 14 pick, and not like the No. 4, No. 6 or No. 10 pick overall like Walker and his agents would like.

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