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Veteran Joyner, rookie Booker agree to contracts

July 17, 1997

Seth Joyner is heading to the top of the NFL, Green Bay. Michael Booker is going to the bottom, Atlanta.

Joyner, a linebacker entering his 12th NFL season and who has played in three Pro Bowls, signed as a free agent with the Packers on Wednesday. He was waived by Arizona.

Joyner, who also played in Philadelphia, where he became a star, is expected to replace George Koonce, out following reconstructive knee surgery. According to his agent, Jim Solano, he will earn $6 million for four years; he was due to get $2.75 million from the Cardinals.

It’s believed the contract is heavily back-loaded, with a signing bonus of about $1 million and a salary this year in the $300,000 range.

Joyner, 32, is reuniting with Reggie White, his teammate and buddy with the Eagles, in hopes of finally reaching the Super Bowl.

``He’s played a long time, he’s made a lot of money, maybe getting a ring or a chance to get the ring or pairing up with Reggie White, maybe that’s the most important thing for him,″ a delighted coach Mike Holmgren said. ``He’s really a nice piece of the puzzle for this season for us. He’s still a very, very fine football player.″

Booker, a cornerback out of Nebraska and the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft, agreed to a five-year contract, assuring the Falcons that all nine draft choices will be in training camp.

Booker, 6-foot-1, 203 pounds, reportedly will receive a $2.2 million signing bonus and a guaranteed base salary for the first three seasons: $800,000 this year, $1 million next year and $1.2 million in 1999.

``My goal is to be in the starting spot. I expect that of myself,″ Booker said. ``I’m feeling more comfortable now after the minicamps.″

Coach Dan Reeves also expects a lot of Booker.

``Michael has done everything we’ve asked of him since we drafted him. He’s worked hard from Day 1 on the field and off the field in meetings with his position coach,″ Reeves said. ``I like his work ethic.″


Washington is facing a threat from defensive tackle Sean Gilbert to sit out the season in a contract dispute. Given that the Redskins may be starting rookie Kenard Lang at end, Gilbert’s absence would not bode well for a team that ranked last against the run last year.

The Redskins designated Gilbert as their franchise player to keep him from becoming a free agent. Unhappy with the decision, Gilbert is demanding a contract worth more than $4.5 million per year.

``He’s been very firm on his conviction on how much he should be compensated,″ said Gilbert’s agent, Gus Sunseri. ``All he wants is what he would have received as a free agent, so it comes down to when and if the Redskins are willing to pay him a fair amount. His position will not change.″


The Oilers have a big hole in their offensive line: 11-year veteran right tackle Irv Eatman is out until at least October.

Eatman ripped a bicep muscle in his shoulder at minicamp in early June and had surgery June 13. But he’s still in a sling.

Vying for his job are second-year player Jon Runyan, former University of Tennessee star Jason Layman and Melvin Hayes, who joined the Oilers after two seasons of virtual inactivity with the Jets.


Defensive starters Ray Buchanan, Tony Siragusa, David Tate, Jeff Herrod and Eugene Daniel left the Colts in the offseason. Missing from the offensive line is center Kirk Lowdermilk, who started every game the past four years.

``That’s a part of this game, people come, and people go,″ defensive tackle Tony McCoy said. ``You’ve got to be able to suck it up, you miss them. But, you go on. This is a season I feel we can get to the Super Bowl. ... I really feel the talent is there.″

The Colts hope free agents Robert Blackmon, Carlton Gray, Al Fontenot and Dan Footman will ease the losses on defense. Jay Leeuwenburg likely will replace Lowdermilk on an offensive line that again is one of the big question marks.


Mark Rypien is determined not to allow any quarterback controversies develop in St. Louis.

``I don’t think that’s what I want and it’s not what the team needs,″ said Rypien, a former Super Bowl MVP back for a second stint with the team as insurance for starter Tony Banks. ``We need to let Tony relax, get a good feel for this team and an opportunity to lead this team.″

Banks was the only rookie starting quarterback in the NFL last year. He showed promise with a strong arm, passing for more than 2,500 yards and 15 touchdowns in 14 games, but he also set a league record with 21 fumbles.


Running back-kick returner Dave Meggett, scheduled to make $1.5 million this season, isn’t expected to report for Thursday’s opening of camp. The Patriots, seeking more salary cap room, want to cut that salary about in half.

Meggett missed a mandatory minicamp last month and was the only player who didn’t show up for Wednesday’s physicals and conditioning drills.

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