Three down, six to go. That's where the Jaguars stand at getting their 2002 draft class under contract, following the signing of third-round pick Akin Ayodele to a three-year deal.
Ayodele, a former defensive end at Purdue who is making the move to strongside linebacker with the Jaguars, has agreed to a contract that paid him a $428,000 signing bonus and includes minimum-wage salaries of $225,000, $300,000 and $380,000. He joined fourth-round tight end Chris Luzar and seventh-round wide receiver Kendall Newson as Jaguars draft choices under contract. Remaining to be signed are first-round defensive tackle John Henderson, second-round offensive tackle Mike Pearson, fourth-round quarterback David Garrard, sixth-round defensive tackle Clenton Ballard, seventh-round defensive back Steve Smith and seventh-round kicker Hayden Epstein.
With the signing of Ayodele, the Jaguars announced the release of linebacker Joe Wesley, who was used mostly on special teams late last season.
Signing draft choices this year is expected to be a slower process league-wide, since the rookie-pool money has not increased from last season. Of course, rookies will be seeking an increase from what was paid to the 2001 draft picks.
Ayodele's, Luzar's and Newson's contracts include split provisions that would pay them less than minimum wage should they land on the injured reserve list. The split-provision minimum for a rookie is $130,000.
Split-salary contracts are common for third-round-and-lower draft choices, but do not occur with first and second-round picks.