Saturday, July 30, 2005
Cowboys, Texans sign top draft choices
By Len Pasquarelli
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys completed a first-round daily double Saturday evening, reaching five-year contract agreements with linebacker Demarcus Ware and defensive end Marcus Spears, the team's two selections in the opening round of the 2005 draft.
Both players are expected to start as rookies, as the Cowboys move to a 3-4 defensive front, and Dallas officials were anxious to get the highly-regarded youngsters to camp. The Cowboys began making progress on the deals on Friday and then negotiated with agents Pat Dye Jr. (for Ware) and Jimmy Sexton (for Spears) for much of Saturday.
The 11th overall choice in the draft, Ware, from Troy State, will sign a five-year deal worth $13 million, with $10 million in guarantees. Former LSU star Spears, who was the 20th player chosen, will get a five-year, $9.35 million contract that includes guarantees totaling $6.7 million.
Ware, who turns 23 on Sunday, played defensive end in college. But the Dallas coaches view him as the kind of hybrid outside defender essential to succeeding with their move to a 3-4 scheme. One of the fastest rising players in the month preceding the draft, Ware is a superb all-around athlete with great quickness and playmaking potential.
In 44 games college games, 35 of them starts, Ware had 201 tackles, with 58 of them for losses, 27 ½ sacks, 76 quarterback pressures, 10 forced fumbles and four recoveries. The Dallas coaches felt Ware, during the spring minicamps, looked comfortable at linebacker despite never having played the position before.
Spears has the kind of size (6-feet-4, 295 pounds) and anchoring ability versus the run to be a solid 3-4 defensive end. A three-year starter, Spears appeared in 48 games at LSU, finishing his career with 152 tackles, 34 ½ of them for losses, 19 sacks, 47 pressures, two forced fumbles and one recovery.
Houston Texans: The Texans reached a contract agreement with first-round defensive lineman Travis Johnson, striking a five-year deal one day before the team is scheduled to report to training camp.
Johnson will sign a five-year, $10.2 million contract that includes guaranteed bonuses of $7.77 million. The former Florida State standout was the 16th overall prospect selected in the 2005 draft. He is the 11th first-rounder to reach contract terms.
A full-time starter only in his senior season, Johnson played tackle for the Seminoles, but could also line up at end in the Texans' 3-4 front. Johnson worked some at end during the Houston minicamp and said he was comfortable at the position.
Both of the Texans' current starting ends, Gary Walker and Robaire Smith, are onetime defensive tackles who successfully made the transition to the outside in a three-man front. Johnson possesses the kind of size (6-feet-3 5/8 and 305 pounds) necessary to play end in the 3-4.
Johnson, 23, appeared in 51 games, and started in 21, during his college career. Twelve of those starts came in 2004, his senior season, when he had 50 tackles, 2 ½ sacks and 12 quarterback pressures. His 18 tackles for loss were the third-most ever in a season by a Florida State defensive lineman.
For his career, Johnson finished with 175 tackles, including 43 ½ tackles for losses, 10 sacks, 31 pressures, six forced fumbles and four recoveries.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .