Top pick, Packers trying to beat the clock

Andrew Brandt, Green Bay's vice president of player finance, and the agent for Packers' first-round pick Nick Barnett, are scheduled to meet today in Chicago to work out a contract agreement for the linebacker.<p>

Barnett is one of three Packers draft picks that have yet to agree or sign a deal. The Packers officially announced the signing of wide receiver Carl Ford on Wednesday. Ford and linebacker Steve Josue, both seventh round picks, agreed to three-year deals on Tuesday.

Brandt told Packers shareholders on Tuesday that his goal is to have Barnett, third round pick Kenny Peterson and fifth rounder Hunter Hillenmeyer under contract by Friday evening, when rookies and other newcomers report for the start of training camp Saturday.

The fact that the Packers are one of four teams that begin training camp a week earlier than other teams because of a five preseason game schedule is making negotiations difficult for Brandt. Onely one first round pick has signed and many others in subsequent rounds are waiting for the dominos to fall.

"With us being the first team to report (for training camp), we've got to get people to jump into the lake and not just put their toes in the water," Brandt said on Tuesday. "We'll see what happens in the next three days.

"We want the player here on time, and that's Friday night. The fact that there's nothing to go on (with other first-round picks), it's something we have to deal with," Brandt said.

Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer, the top pick in the 2003 NFL draft, is the only first-round selection under contract. Only three of 33 third-rounders and 13 of 38 fifth-rounders had been signed as of Tuesday, according to the Green Bay News-Chronicle.

The Packers used the 29th overall pick on Barnett, who starred at Oregon State. Last year, the Chicago Bears gave offensive lineman Marc Columbo, taken 29th overall, a five-year, $5.425 million deal including a bonus of about $3.3 million. Columbo had a salary-cap figure of $930,000 in 2002.

Peterson was taken 79th overall. Washington's Rashad Bauman, the 79th overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft, signed a three-year deal worth $1.399 million, including a signing bonus of $494,500.

The New York Giants recently signed offensive guard David Diehl, taken six spots higher than Hillenmeyer, for $1.02 million over three years with a bonus of about $110,000.

Green Bay's other picks that have signed include defensive tackle James Lee of Oregon State, a fifth-round selection; offensive tackle Brennan Curtin of Notre Dame, a sixth-round choice; wide receiver/kick returner DeAndrew Rubin of South Florida, the Packers' second pick in the seventh round; and cornerback Chris Johnson of Louisville, Green Bay's first pick in the seventh round.

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