<
>

'Mr. Irrelevant' gets $17,500 signing bonus

Andy Stokes, the last player selected in the 2005 draft, will be the first of the New England Patriots' seven selections to earn a paycheck. When it comes to his bank account, at least, Stokes isn't exactly "Mr. Irrelevant" anymore.

A little-known tight end from even lesser-known William Penn College in Oskalaloosa, Iowa, Stokes has reached agreement on his first NFL contract. The two-year deal is worth $557,500. It includes a $17,500 signing bonus and minimum base salaries of $230,000 for 2005 and $310,000 for 2006.

While the signing bonus is predictably modest, it represents a healthy 9.4 percent increase over the upfront money received by the 2004 "Mr. Irrelevant," Colorado State linebacker Andre Sommersell, chosen by the Raiders with the final pick last year. Sommersell also signed a two-year contract.

Stokes, 23, was the 255th player chosen this year and, as the 30th "Mr. Irrelevant," he will be duly feted in Newport Beach, Calif., the week of June 20. Stokes will also receive the so-called "Lowsman Trophy" as part of the annual festivities.

"He's kind of the all-time, small-school player we have ever taken here," allowed Patriots head coach Bill Belichick after selecting Stokes to conclude the two-day draft.

As such, Stokes faces long odds of earning a spot on the Pats practice squad, and he will go to camp no better than fifth on the tight end depth chart. There are four veterans -- Daniel Graham, Christian Fauria, Benjamin Watson and Jed Weaver -- ahead of him.

Still, the former high school quarterback and St. George, Utah, native is athletic. Stokes finished his college career with 104 receptions for 1,578 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has enough speed to play tight end, and his 15.2-yard career average per catch is impressive.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.