|Saturday, June 22
Booker signs new seven-year, $28M deal
By Len Pasquarelli
The three-year veteran has signed a seven-year contract that is one of the richest ever awarded a restricted free agent and which makes him one of the league's highest paid players at his position. The contract is worth $28 million and includes a signing bonus of $5.5 million. The base salary for 2002 is $1 million and there is also a $1 million report bonus for this year.
Clearly, the Bears paid a premium to keep Booker off the free agent market next spring. Without an extension, the former Northeast Louisiana standout would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency after the 2002 campaign.
Booker, 25, had earlier this spring signed a one-year, $1.227 million qualifying offer as a restricted free agent. That permitted the Bears, of course, to retain right of first refusal on any offer sheet he would have signed elsewhere. Booker hinted only last week that he and agent Raymond Brothers were not only interested in, but already working on, a long-term deal that might tie him to the Bears the rest of his career.
A third-round choice in the 1999 draft, Booker had only 10 starts and 66 receptions in his first two seasons. But with feature receiver Marcus Robinson sidelined by an injury last year, Booker became the "go to" player for quarterback Jim Miller and also established himself as one of the NFL's emerging young stars.
He started all 16 games and shattered the Chicago receiving mark, by posting 100 catches for 1,071 yards and eight touchdowns.
Although only 5-feet-11, Booker is a very physical receiver, and at 211 pounds, is built more like a tailback. He is adept at creating separation inside the hashes and at tacking on yards after the catch. He is, for coordinator John Shoop's design, the prototype receiver and Bears officials went to great lengths to assure his future with the franchise.
The deal with Booker continues a strong offseason for the Bears and general manager Jerry Angelo, one in which the club has been able to retain most of its key veterans. Chicago now has 20 of its 22 starters, excluding the kickers, under contract through at least the 2003 season.
Booker has now appeared in 40 games with 26 starts and has 166 catches for 1,780 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.