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Rookie deals skyrocket to startling new heights

Salaries have skyrocketed throughout the off-season, but the truest measure at how wacky they've become is in rookie deals.

Now some players drafted in the top 10 are becoming the highest-paid players at their position in NFL history.

When Washington signed its first-round draft pick, LaRon Landry, to a five-year, $41.5 million deal that included $17.5 million in guarantees, it became the most lucrative deal ever given to a safety.

No NFL safety -- not Ronnie Lott, not Ed Reed, nor even Troy Polamalu, who signed an extension last week that included $15 million worth of guaranteed money -- ever signed a deal with more guarantees than the one Landry landed from Washington.

So the rich did not get richer; rookies did. But the Redskins had little choice; this is the system under which they were playing. The player picked at No. 7, running back Adrian Peterson, signed a five-year, $40 million deal that included $17 million worth of guaranteed money. Picked at No. 6, one slot ahead of Peterson, Landry received numbers that much higher.

And he is not alone. Offensive tackle Joe Thomas, the draft's third overall pick, commanded $23 million worth of guaranteed money -- considerably more than the $18 million in guarantees Buffalo awarded free-agent guard Derrick Dockery.

The new system under the new CBA still is shaking out, but some of the effects are obvious and startling. Now, players who never have played an NFL down, who have not proven whether they are boom or bust picks, are receiving salaries that Hall-of-Fame players never did.

Landry did, Thomas did, and the trend is not finished yet.

Whenever Detroit signs the second overall pick Calvin Johnson, he will be given more guaranteed money than any wide receiver in NFL history.

Veterans Day

While some rookies continue to hit paydirt and jackpots, not all veterans do.

The Kansas City Chiefs still have not submitted a new written contract proposal to holdout running back Larry Johnson since June 1.

Johnson is frustrated and disappointed, and resigned to missing the preseason, if not much of the regular season.

But the Chiefs feel as if their backfield is in good standing, even without Johnson. Kansas City is counting on former Pro Bowl running back Priest Holmes as a third-down back and believes former first-round pick Michael Bennett is a capable every-down back. And the Chiefs are excited about the emergence of fifth-round pick Kolby Smith, who has been one of the offseason surprises.

The Chiefs still are surprised that a back who has looked as good as Smith has was available in the fifth round, a season after he replaced and nearly matched the performance of Louisville running back Michael Bush.

Kansas City thinks it pulled a fifth-round surprise. Preseason games will show whether the Chiefs are right. And meanwhile, there are no signs of Johnson -- nor will there be for weeks, at minimum.

Dangers of camp

If any reminders were needed about the perils of camp, they came in a 24-hour span Monday and Tuesday.

Three important running backs -- San Francisco's Frank Gore, Minnesota's Chester Taylor and Green Bay's Vernand Morency -- suffered injuries that will sideline them for varying amounts of time in training camp.

They were reminders that Kansas City's Johnson is missing little of importance, other than the risk of being injured.

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