Progress in negotiations with the players selected in the top 10 of the 2004 draft is expected to be hard-earned in the coming week, with several
holdouts anticipated, but one player in that elite group seems almost certain to be in training camp on time.
he agent for offensive tackle Robert Gallery, the second overall selection, traveled to Oakland on Tuesday to meet with Raiders officials. Given the
positive tenor of talks to date, and Gallery's insistence that he be in camp by the team's July 29 reporting date, sources said it will not be
surprising if the two sides reach a quick agreement.
Only two first-round choices, New England defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (No. 21) and Houston linebacker Jason Babin (No. 27), had agreed to terms as
of Tuesday morning. The agents for several other first-round picks, most in the second half of the stanza, have acknowledged that they are making
headway toward contract accords.
But for a variety of reasons -- the unusual juxtaposition of quarterbacks Philip Rivers and Eli Manning, another season with a relatively "flat"
rookie allocation, and the fact teams can prorate signing bonuses over just six years instead of the usual seven -- negotiations for the top 10
choices figure to be challenging for all parties involved.
That may not be the case for Gallery, the former Iowa standout, and a player regarded as the best offensive line prospect in several years.
Agent Rick Smith acknowledged in mid-May, just two weeks after the draft, that he was not inclined to wait for other deals to be completed in the top
10, so that he would have a better idea of how to "slot" his client. Smith and Oakland officials have been discussing a contract for some time now and
sources said the fact the two sides are convening a face-to-face meeting likely augurs an agreement.
"Let's face it, with all the constraints this year, the dollar number is finite," Smith said in May. "If they get to a number we like, and which is
fair, then we won't wait. If Robert is going to be the starter, he has to be (in camp) on time, and he knows that."
Gallery is expected to challenge sixth-year veteran Barry Sims for the starting job at left offensive tackle as Oakland seeks to overhaul a line unit
that has shown some age over the last two seasons. Gallery, 23, was the Outland Trophy recipient in 2003, was voted unanimously to the All-American
and all-Big 10 teams, and also garnered all-academic honors in his conference.
He participated in 3,230 snaps, according to Iowa records, and had 359 "knockdown" blocks and 41 blocks that resulted in touchdowns.
Even if Gallery and the Raiders reach an agreement in the next few days, as expected, it probably will not signal a signing spree among the top 10
players. A deal could, though, provide some sense of where the market is headed in that segment of the draft.