Holliday may extend break without extension

The agent for Green Bay Packers defensive end Vonnie Holliday is hopeful that he and the Packers can reach an agreement on a contract extension prior to training camp. But, thus far, the talks between the two sides have been lukewarm at best.<p>

It hasn't helped that the Packers have yet to follow through on a verbal agreement, according to Holliday's agent Neil Schwartz. Holliday, the team's first round draft pick in 1998, signed a five-year, $5.57 million deal in June of his rookie season, but the fifth year was voidable. At the time he was the first first-rounder to sign a contract, but there was a contingency, according to Schwartz.

"Part of the deal was that if Vonnie was a productive player and I assume that he's been a productive player, that we would rip up year five," Schwartz said. "That was representations made to us by the Packers back then. We would rip up year five and we would be extended. I'm hoping that's going to happen. That's the issue that Vonnie is having. These are the things that were said to me."

Holliday, 26, had perhaps his best season last year with a career-high 81 tackles and seven sacks. He is due to have a base salary of $696,000 and then become an unrestricted free agent after the 2002 season. He reportedly received a $1 million bonus on March 15 as part of his original contract. The Packers could have re-signed Holliday to an extension prior to March 15 to avoid paying the bonus, but would have had to pay him a much larger signing bonus.

At this point, the Packers may allow Holliday to play out the final year of his contract. But Holliday could force the issue by holding out.

"I'm always concerned about everybody coming back and being ready to go, but he's under contract and I think it would be a huge mistake if he wasn't here," Packers coach and general manager Mike Sherman told the Green Bay Press-Gazette on Thursday. "I have a contingency plan if he doesn't show up, but I think it would be a huge mistake if he doesn't."

The average of the top 10 highest paid defensive ends in the NFL last year was $4,975,000. Holliday could be seeking a deal that averages between $3 million to $5 million a season. The Packers signed veteran defensive end Joe Johnson to a six-year, $33 million deal on March 26. It included a $4.75 million signing bonus. Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor signed a six-year, $42 million deal last year. New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan reportedly turned down a seven-year offer worth $57 million.

Schwartz did not say if Holliday would hold out, but emphasized that he is "cautiously optimistic" that he and Packers negotiator Andrew Brandt will hammer out an extension.

Brandt was out of the office Friday and could not be reached for comment.

Billy Lyon currently plays behind Holliday at 'power' end, but defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt has played that position, too.

"I'm very happy with where I am, and I'm very happy with this organization and what they've done and how they've treated me, and I would love to remain a Packer for life," Holliday said shortly after the 2001 season. "I wanna be here, and I think they want me here. If that's the case and everything works out for both parties, then I'll be here."

Schwartz said that Holliday doesn't want his contract situation to be a distraction when training camp starts.

"He wants an extension. He wanted the extension a long time ago," Schwartz said. "The inducements were there. He wants to remain a Packer."

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