Carolina Panthers

Panthers sign rookie Beason after holdout

CHARLOTTE -- And on the ninth day, the Carolina Panthers were able to rest.

Jon Beason, on the other hand, was already enrolled in Sunday school so he could catch up on what he's missed.

The Panthers and their first-round pick reached communion Sunday morning on a five-year deal with a maximum value (if he hits every incentive) of $12.5 million. The contract includes guaranteed payments of $6 million, with $3.2 million in the form of a signing bonus and $2.5 million coming in a third-year roster/reporting bonus.

The notable fact is that it includes no second-year option bonus -- which the team refused to include because it can't be recouped if Beason holds out or defaults on the contract.

But while the semantics of the deal caused the delay, the salient point remains that Beason will be on the field this morning when the team returns to work at Wofford College, where it needs him because of a rash of injuries, major and minor, at the position. He already was en route to Spartanburg on Sunday morning, where he was going to meet with coaches and begin to go over what he's missed during the eight days and 12 practices he missed.

"Today is a dream come true for me as I am now officially a Carolina Panther," Beason said. "There is a business side to professional football, and I am thankful that part is finally resolved. Ultimately, both the club and I compromised to settle our differences. My focus now is getting into camp immediately and being the best player I can be for the Carolina Panthers and for our fans.

"I have some catching up to do, but feel ready to meet the challenges that lie ahead. ... Now is the time for action and not words."

A noble sentiment, but the words held this one up far longer than it appears necessary.

Beason and agent Michael Huyghue went on a public relations offensive a week ago today, claiming the Panthers were negotiating in bad faith because they wouldn't include a hefty payment in the form of the second-year option bonus, which most other first-rounders received. Huyghue said the team initially made such an offer but pulled it off the table, and accused the Panthers of making his client the "guinea pig of the draft," by refusing to include one.

"The basis of the impasse was legitimate," Huyghue said Sunday morning. "But Jon wanted to be on the field from day one. The business side took over, and there were issues that had to be resolved.

"There's always a worry when you're holding out, and ultimately, it takes two to make a deal."

Huyghue said the Panthers beefed up the guaranteed money in their offer to make up for the lack of the option payment. He also said the $3.2 million signing bonus put Beason's contract in line with the 12th overall pick. And while some viewed the fact that second-overall pick Calvin Johnson signed a deal Friday without an option bonus as something that sparked the talks, Huyghue said they had "moved off" that point before the Johnson deal was done.

But there are two sides to every story, and only one was talking publicly on this one. The Panthers said throughout they didn't want to get into the specifics of the negotiations for fear of alienating Beason -- a player they hope to build around.

However, multiple sources familiar with the team's stance said the signing bonus payment was virtually the same as they included in their initial proposal, that an option bonus payment was never offered and that they never even received a written counter-proposal from Huyghue until the recent thaw that brought player and agent to Charlotte on Saturday night to finish the deal.

General manager Marty Hurney wouldn't comment on those details, but said there was a relief the deal's finally done.

"At least now we can start catching up," Hurney said. "With every day that was lost, it just got harder and harder for Jon to be able to come in and play a role this year.

"It's a credit to Jon and his agent that they realized that and came to town so we could get this done."

The Panthers need him because of their rash of injuries at his position. Na'il Diggs, who was competing with Beason for the starting weakside job, missed most of the first week with a hamstring strain. Middle linebacker Dan Morgan (for whom Beason could be the long-term replacement) hasn't been allowed to take contact as he works back from last year's concussion-related absence.

But the biggest injury so far was the one that will create the roster spot for Beason. Versatile backup Terrence Melton -- who wowed coaches with his grasp of the playbook and his enthusiasm -- suffered a major knee injury Saturday. He is believed to have torn both the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee, and will likely be placed on injured reserve today.

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