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When Seahawks OT Russell Okung and Bills RB C.J. Spiller reached agreement on contracts with their respective clubs on Aug. 6, it ended a rather undramatic signing period for the NFL's 32 first-round picks. Indeed, every first-round selection was under contract before the first preseason game kicked off. (Ravens OLB-DE Sergio Kindle, a second-round pick, remained unsigned at presstime after suffering a fractured skull before training camp.)
The lack of prolonged contract squabbles this summer sent us to the archives to research how the last three first-rounders to sign in each of the past five years fared in their rookie season and beyond. As you will see in this edition of the NFList, the results are mixed.
49ers WR Michael Crabtree (signing date: Oct. 7)
Bengals OT Andre Smith (Aug. 30)
Bills DE Aaron Maybin (Aug. 21)
Rookie performance: Crabtree missed the Niners' first five games, but he stepped right into the lineup after signing, catching 48 passes for 625 yards and two TDs. Smith was limited to just six games as a rookie because of a broken foot. Maybin appeared in all 16 games as a reserve last season and did not notch a sack.
Expected roles in 2010: Crabtree is poised to be the 49ers' top wideout. Smith, who had foot surgery in the offseason, began the preseason on the PUP list. He will compete with Dennis Roland for the starting ORT job if healthy. Maybin will play outside linebacker in the Bills' 3-4 scheme and will be counted on for more pass-rush pressure with Aaron Schobel having been released.
Jaguars DE Derrick Harvey (Aug. 27)
Bengals LB Keith Rivers (Aug. 5)
Saints DT Sedrick Ellis (July 29)
Rookie performance: Harvey appeared in all 16 games as a rookie, starting nine and notching 3½ sacks. Rivers was showing improvement before suffering a season-ending broken jaw on a block by Steelers WR Hines Ward that limited him to seven games. Ellis missed three games with knee problems but showed promise as an interior pass rusher.
Expected roles in 2010: Harvey, who started all 16 games in 2000 but recorded just two sacks, is slated to start at left defensive end for Jacksonville. Rivers was a steady starter on the weak side for the Bengals last season, but the team is hoping for more big plays in his third year. Ellis is a starter and a key part of the Saints' defensive line, but he missed six games last season because of knee problems.
Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell (Sept. 12)
Jets CB Darrelle Revis (Aug. 15)
Browns QB Brady Quinn (Aug. 7)
Rookie performance: Russell appeared in just four games as a rookie and made his only start in the season finale vs. San Diego. Quinn, who was expected to compete with Derek Anderson and Charlie Frye for the starting job, didn't appear in a game until the final week of the season. Meanwhile, Revis moved right into the starting lineup for the Jets, intercepting three passes in his first campaign.
Expected roles in 2010: Revis has become one of the NFL's top cornerbacks. At presstime, he was holding out for a new contract. Quinn is competing for a reserve role with the Broncos after the Browns traded him in March. Russell, whom the Raiders released in May, was charged with possession of codeine syrup by Mobile County (Ala.) authorities in July. At the age of 25, Russell's NFL career appears in jeopardy.
Cardinals QB Matt Leinart (Aug. 14)
Bills S Donte Whitner (Aug. 5)
Eagles DT Brodrick Bunkley (Aug. 4)
Rookie performance: Like this summer, the summer of '06 was not marked by much contract contentiousness. Leinart took the starting job from Kurt Warner after four games, and in his next 11 starts, he looked like he would be the Cardinals' starter for many years to come. Whitner made an immediate impact in the Bills' secondary, notching 104 tackles in 15 games. Bunkley appeared in 15 games as a reserve, recording just nine tackles.
Expected roles in 2010: Bunkley, who has started 47 of his team's last 48 regular-season games, will start next to Mike Patterson in the middle of the Eagles' line. Whitner has been a steady starter in the Bills' secondary at strong safety. Leinart? After backing up the now-retired Warner the past two seasons, he is expected to recapture the Cardinals' starting job.
Bears RB Cedric Benson (Aug. 28)
Titans CB Adam Jones (Aug. 17)
Bengals OLB David Pollack (Aug. 17)
Rookie performance: Benson started just one game for the Bears in 2005 and missed six games with a knee injury. Jones appeared in 15 games, starting 13, but he struggled in coverage. Pollack came on strong at the end of his rookie year and played well in the playoff loss to Pittsburgh.
Expected roles in 2010: Benson, whom the Bears released after three seasons, has revived his career with the Bengals, becoming Cincinnati's featured back. Jones, out of football last season, signed with the Bengals in May and is competing to be a backup. Pollack's career was cut short after he suffered a broken vertebra in his neck early in the 2006 season. He is now a sports talk-radio host at "790 The Zone" in Atlanta.
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