Clarett wants to prove he's worthy of first-round money

Maurice Clarett, who legally challenged the league for early entry, still hasn't given up the thought he should have been a first-round choice in the NFL.

Instead of suing the league, Clarett came up with a novel approach. He is putting his money where his mouth is. On Thursday, he signed a four-year contract in which he gave up the $410,000 of guaranteed money in order to secure an incentive-laden deal that could eventually earn him $7 million.

The complex contract, which includes more than $5 million of performance escalators, forced the Broncos and Clarett's agents to negotiate well into Wednesday night. After a few hours of sleep, they resumed their talks Thursday morning and reached agreement by the afternoon. Clarett was the last pick in the third round of the draft.

The contract was negotiated by Steve Feldman, Josh Luchs and Clarett's attorney and advisor, David Kenner.

"This deal struck gives Maurice the opportunity to be paid like the first-round draft choice he was born to be," Feldman said.

Specifics of the contract are sketchy, but it works something like this. If Clarett gains 1,000 yards, he could hit an escalator worth more than $1 million, almost three times what he would have made in a signing bonus given to him by the Broncos.

The more he rushes for, the more he makes. He can max out at around $7 million.

This was Clarett's gamble. He has the confidence he can gain the yards and hit the $7 million figure. Rollovers give him a chance to make the big bumps in salary if he doesn't do it as a rookie.

To further show his commitment, he accepted no guarantees. The $410,000 the Broncos were willing to give him Thursday was put into workout bonuses in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Clarett wants to prove he's a first-round talent. If he runs like a first-rounder, he could be paid like a first-rounder instead of a third-rounder.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.