Bulger remains in St. Louis with six-year deal

ST. LOUIS -- Marc Bulger's numbers put him in the top tier of NFL quarterbacks, and now he has a contract to match.

As first reported by ESPN's Chris Mortensen, the St. Louis Rams signed the two-time Pro Bowler to a six-year, $65 million contract extension Friday that makes him the highest-paid player in franchise history. The contract includes $27 million in guaranteed money.

With a $10.25 million average salary, Bulger's new contract places him in elite company, just behind Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Michael Vick, Tom Brady and Brett Favre as quarterbacks who make $10 million or more on average per year.

"He'll be in the very upper echelon of quarterbacks," said Tom Condon, Bulger's agent.

The Rams tied up both of their loose ends on the first day of training camp, also reaching agreement on a five-year deal with first-round draft pick Adam Carriker.

Bulger, coming off a career year, was a no-show for a mandatory team meeting Thursday and is in the final year of a four-year, $19.1 million contract with a salary of about $4 million for this year.

"The whole time we knew it was going to get done, it was just a matter of logistics," Bulger said. "The numbers are one thing. It's huge. The first contract was a life-changer and this is a life-changer."

Bulger took some of the first snaps of training camp for the Rams, coming off an 8-8 year in coach Scott Linehan's first season. Carriker, the 13th overall pick of the draft, did not participate in the opening workout because he had not signed a contract agreed to early Friday. But he was expected to be on the field for an evening practice.

Team president Jay Zygmunt said director of football operations Samir Suleiman had been awake 24 hours for negotiations.

"In all my years, it's been a unique situation," Zygmunt said.

Bulger had threatened to hold out without a new deal, and skipping the meeting while negotiations intensified might have sent a strong message. Condon said, though, that Bulger would have reported on Friday with or without a deal.

Bulger disagreed with a headline in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that referred to the situation as a "holdout." Linehan said Thursday after talking to the quarterback that it was an excused absence.

"Fashionably late," Linehan chimed in. "I didn't think anybody doubted for a minute that he'd be here. I'm not saying it's fair to say it's not his style, but Marc wants to help this team win a championship, and he knows to do that he's got to be out here."

Linehan said he and Bulger had a "little conversation" before practice.

"I kind of gave him a look," the coach said. "I said, 'You owe me for all the heartache you gave me last night.'"

Bulger's previous contract had put him near the middle of the NFL in terms of salary for his position. Before camp, the team had said signing Bulger to an extension was a top priority. Both parties said negotiations began in February.

Bulger had the best year of his career, throwing for 4,301 yards with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season. He completed 62.9 percent of his passes and ranked fourth in NFL passing.

Carriker played defensive end at Nebraska, where he was the Big 12 defensive lineman of the year as a senior and had a team-leading seven sacks. He is expected to move to defensive tackle for the Rams, whose major weakness is in the interior line.

"I need to get on the field, I need to learn the plays, I need
to get practice time in," Carriker said. "I need to get
acclimated to the NFL."

The Rams have compared Carriker to a larger version of another high-motor Nebraska product, Grant Wistrom, who played on St. Louis teams that won the Super Bowl in 2000 and went to another one in 2002.

"We'll see when we start playing, but I'd be real surprised if he's not a heck of a football player," Linehan said. "That's why we drafted him."

Earlier this decade, the Rams used first-round picks on defensive tackles Ryan Pickett and Damione Lewis in 2001 and Jimmy Kennedy in 2003. None is still with the team. Kennedy was dealt to the Broncos for a sixth-round pick in June.

Carriker's signing puts all of the team's draft picks under contract.

Chris Mortensen covers the NFL for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.