Bears get deal done with Shea McClellin in time for minicamp
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org May 11, 2012 9:18PM
Bears first-round pick Shea McClellin lined up mostly at left end in drills Friday. | Nam Y. Huh~AP
Updated: June 13, 2012 8:11AM
There wasn’t much Shea McClellin could show Friday at Halas Hall in his first practice as a Bear — just a quick first step and that he learns well.
The first day of a rookie minicamp is one of the most boring on the NFL calendar. There are no pads and no contact; nothing but rudimentary drills, primer-level language and basic instruction of players with their names taped to the front of their helmets. Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake spent 15 minutes drilling players on how to line up properly.
Yet McClellin, the Bears’ first-round pick in the draft April 26, believed he was ahead of the game as defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli put him and three other rookie defensive ends through drills.
‘‘My coach at Boise State studied from Rod when he was at Detroit, so I’ve done a lot of those drills — almost every drill, actually,’’ McClellin said. ‘‘I was ready for it.’’
McClellin, though, was ahead of the game even before he stepped on the field. Earlier on Friday, he signed a four-year, $8.2 million contract, including $7.5 million guaranteed. It’s the earliest the Bears have signed a first-round pick since Stan Thomas signed four days after the draft (April 26) in 1991.
In fact, the Bears have signed five of their six draft picks. Third-round pick Brandon Hardin, a safety from Oregon State, is the only player who has yet to come to terms.
That’s a byproduct of the new collective-bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFL Players Association that ended the lockout before last season. It included a rookie wage system that has eliminated much of the negotiating for draft picks.
It’s a tough deal financially for first-rounders. Under the old CBA, No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams signed a six-year, $78 million contract, including $50 million guaranteed, before he even took a snap. Under the new CBA, No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers signed a four-year, $22 million contract, all of it guaranteed.
Even the 19th pick is feeling the hit. In 2010, Sean Weatherspoon signed a five-year, $17.5 million rookie contract that included $10.5 million guaranteed — $3 million more than McClellin will get in his rookie deal.
But the rookie from Caldwell, Idaho, seemed more happy to have the issue resolved early and be assured of starting his NFL career on time when training camp opens in July.
There’s a lot to be said for that aspect of the rookie-wage system. The last five Bears holdouts — Cedric Benson (2005), David Terrell (2002), Cade McNown (2000), Curtis Enis (1999) and Rashaan Salaam (1995) — all had unsatisfying careers with the Bears. Sometimes a head start as a rookie is more valuable than the voidable years or escalator clauses that helped agents get future clients but often backfired on the player who signed the contract.
‘‘It’s good to get it out of the way,’’ McClellin said after practice Friday. ‘‘My agents did a great job getting it done before camp starts.’’
McClellin is eager to get started and learn all he can from Marinelli, one of the most respected defensive line coaches in the NFL.
‘‘It’s great,’’ he said. ‘‘He’s very knowledgeable. I learned a lot today — little details and techniques — and I can’t wait for the future.’’
McClellin lined up mostly at left end but also at right end in drills. He also participated in a punt-team drill. Coach Lovie Smith reiterated that McClellin is strictly an end on defense.
“That’s all he’ll be playing for us,’’ he said. ‘‘If you watch practice, I don’t think you saw him pass dropping or anything like that. He had his hand in the dirt, trying to become a better pass rusher, and that’s what it’s all about. You have to be able to get pressure on the quarterback. We feel like we’ve gotten better with our pass rush by bringing him in.”