Patriots notebook

Top pick Solder is final unsigned rookie

By Greg Bedard and Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / August 3, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH - Contract negotiations between the Patriots and first-round pick Nate Solder essentially have become a staring contest. Who’s going to blink and when?

With the team’s two second-round picks, cornerback Ras-I Dowling and running back Shane Vereen, signing contracts yesterday and practicing for the first time, only Solder, the tackle out of Colorado, remains unsigned.

At this point, under the new rookie system, there’s only one thing the sides can be arguing about: how many years are guaranteed.

According to contract numbers obtained through league sources, the Patriots have used $23,606,902 of their $32,177,408 total rookie allocation. That leaves $8,570,506 for total compensation in Solder’s four-year contract.

Athletes First, which also represents Vereen and Patriots third-round pick Ryan Mallett, has to be looking for a fully guaranteed contract for Solder.

Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, taken one pick before Solder at No. 16 overall, had his contract guaranteed. Kerrigan is also represented by Athletes First.

The two picks directly behind Solder - Chargers defensive lineman Corey Liuget (18) and Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara (19) - are the only other unsigned picks from the first round.

The Buccaneers gave the 20th pick, Iowa end Adrian Clayborn, a fully guaranteed deal as well.

It wouldn’t be difficult to imagine the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick balking at giving a rookie a fully guaranteed contract.

Belichick didn’t bite yesterday when asked what he thought about those contracts.

“We’re just going to work within the framework of the system to try to build a team as best we can,’’ he said.

The Patriots guaranteed 2 1/2 years for Dowling, 1 1/2 for Vereen, and the first year for third-rounders Stevan Ridley and Mallett.

Colts president Bill Polian said Sunday his team would not fully guarantee the contract of 22d overall pick Anthony Castonzo out of Boston College, who signed yesterday.

“If we didn’t give Joseph Addai, who helped us go to two Super Bowls . . . a fully guaranteed contract, we’re not going to do it for a rookie,’’ Polian said. “We love Anthony. We think he’s a great draft choice, but it’s time for him to prove that before he gets a fully guaranteed contract.’’

By the numbers Dowling received a four-year contract worth a total of $5,304,098 that includes a signing bonus of $2,357,528. He will receive a workout bonus of $125,000 in 2013 and ’14. Dowling has base salaries of $375,000, $616,095, $732,190, and $973,285.

The official numbers aren’t out on Vereen, but his four-year contract is worth $3,461,150, with a signing bonus of $1,017,200.

Other official contract numbers for Patriots draft picks (all are four-year contracts, with base salaries in parentheses):

Ridley: $2,953,500 total compensation, $648,000 signing bonus ($375,000, $509,250, $643,500, $777,750).

Mallett: $2,947,828 total, $646,876 signing bonus ($375,000, $508,992, $642,984, $776,976).

Marcus Cannon: $2,338,186 total, $200,500 signing bonus ($375,000, $481,281, $587,562, $693,843).

Lee Smith: $2,298,282 total, $171,480 signing bonus ($375,000, $479,467, $583,934, $688,401).

Markell Carter: $2,191,820 total, $94,052 signing bonus ($375,000, $474,628, $574,256, $673,884).

Malcolm Williams: $2,112,038 total, $24,000 signing bonus ($375,000, $475,827, $568,192, $660,557). Williams will receive an $8,462 roster bonus if he makes the team this year.

There is some discrepancy over Mallett’s numbers, which may have been entered incorrectly at the NFL Players Association. As it stands, he is the only Patriots draft pick to be over his allocation in the first year and total compensation.

The Patriots gave each of their draft picks base salaries, after their rookie seasons, that are more than the minimum salaries allowed in the new collective bargaining agreement. They stand to be better compensated than the other picks around them.

Moss lauded Asked about Randy Moss’s retirement, Belichick said, “I think I’ve said many times that Randy is one of the great players that I’ve had the opportunity to coach.

“I don’t want to speak for Randy, but of course I think he was a great player. I think that will be recognized in time, at some point, really how exceptional of a player he was. He made a lot of contributions to our football team during the time he was here. I enjoyed coaching him and I enjoyed our relationship off the field as well as on the field.’’

Added Vince Wilfork, “I just knew how hard he worked this year to try to get back as close as possible to the old Randy. He worked his tail off this offseason.

“He said it was time, so I respect his decision. I think he is probably one of the best receivers I’ve played with or seen in a long, long time. I’m pretty sure a lot of people would say the same thing.

“I enjoyed every minute of it, playing with a great receiver - not a good, a great receiver, and being able to be friends with a great receiver, that says a lot.

“I just think about all the stuff that he has done for us to help us win. Times was tough at times, but you know what? He’s a fighter. He brung some records here for us with Tom [Brady] and himself. I just wish him luck. He is a great receiver in my book.’’

Asked if Moss was misunderstood, Wilfork said, “If you don’t understand where he’s coming from, he can come by kind of wrong to you, but if you understand him - he loved what he does, he loved his teammates, he loved this organization, he loved this football field, and he’ll tell you until the day he go that this was what he did. He was a football player, and he’s taking that to his grave.’’

Safety’s measures It wasn’t an optimal offseason for safety Brandon Meriweather, who, in addition to the lockout, was caught up in a shooting incident in his home state of Florida. Meriweather and his lawyer, though, have maintained that his part was innocent.

“That had nothing to do with me,’’ Meriweather said. “That’s behind. That’s so far behind, I’m not even trying to talk about it.’’

Meriweather, who could be facing a key season in his career, said he did some things differently in his training program.

“Just felt like I could work on some things more, some things a little less,’’ he said.

Asked about the results of the altered regimen, he would only say, “Ask me in February.’’

Meriweather has a year left on his rookie contract, and knows that he needs to improve.

“Everywhere,’’ he said. “I think I could learn my playbook better, I think I could be better everywhere. I’m focusing on every day [of] practice, trying to get better by the day.’’

Sanders returns James Sanders practiced yesterday for the first time, as he had been on the non-football injury list. The safety declined to detail what the injury was, saying it was “just something that happened in the past. You never want to sit on the sidelines and watch your teammates working hard and sweating, bleeding and getting extremely tired. You want to be out there with them and going through this. Just happy to be here and hope to get better.’’

Don’t talk back After Jets coach Rex Ryan issued a challenge to the rest of the league to beat the Patriots, Belichick wasn’t about to respond with any of his own yesterday. Not surprisingly, he said the Patriots are focused on the challenges they have and the work they have to do. He did, however, crack a smile when asked if he, like Ryan, had gotten a tattoo in the offseason. “I’d like to see that one,’’ Belichick said of Ryan’s. “I’m tattoo-free.’’ . . . Wilfork said he hadn’t heard about the Ryan challenge until he was told about it yesterday by reporters. “Rex is Rex,’’ Wilfork said. “He has a well-coached football team and every year they’re competitive.’’ . . . Belichick gave high praise to the returning Kevin Faulk, saying, “He’s the ultimate team player. He’s a great example for all of us in terms of being professional, being team-oriented, and putting himself second to the team goals and doing everything he can to help the team win.’’

Taking a look The Patriots worked out end/linebacker Matt Roth and guard/center Chris Morris yesterday, according to a source with access to the league's transaction wire. Roth (6-4, 275) has long been targeted as a good fit with the Patriots and has strong ties to the Belichick coaching tree. After playing for Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, Roth was the second-round pick of Nick Saban in his first draft with the Dolphins in 2006. Roth was released by Bill Parcells in '09 and landed with Eric Mangini in Cleveland, where he played two seasons. Roth has 20 sacks in six seasons. He plays hard, has decent pass-rush ability, and can set the edge against the run. Morris )6-4, 305) was a seventh-round pick of Oakland in '06 and played there through '09. He appeared in four games for Carolina last season. Morris has started 11 games in his career. ... Ex-Seahawks and Colts defensive end Raheem Brock will work out for the team today . . . The Patriots are scheduled to practice in the stadium today, with only season ticket-holders in attendance. “The day off [Monday] was probably good for the coaching staff,’’ Belichick said. “It definitely gave us a chance to kind of get reorganized, take stock of what’s happened in the past week, and get a better plan for some of the changes and the type of training camp we’re running.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @AmalieBenjamin.

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