CARLISLE, Pa. -- Running back Marshall Faulk leapfrogged defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson yesterday in the NFL's rookie signing bonus derby.
Now, the question is whether quarterback Heath Shuler can pass both of them.
Faulk, the second pick in the draft, got a $5.1 million signing bonus -- the highest ever for a rookie -- in his seven-year, $17.1 million deal from the Indianapolis Colts.
It topped the $5 million signing bonus that Wilkinson, the first player selected, got from the Cincinnati Bengals as part of a six-year, $14.407 million deal.
Although Faulk got a higher gross package, Wilkinson's deal is voidable after four years so he can become a free agent in 1998. Faulk's agreement isn't voidable until after five years -- although he can get a salary adjustment that year -- so his contract can't expire before 1999 when the free-agency requirement increases to six years of experience in an uncapped year.
In any case, Shuler, the Washington Redskins' No. 1 choice, wants to top both deals in signing bonus and gross value. He's asking for a $6 million bonus while the Redskins are offering to match Wilkinson at $5 million.
RF Shuler also wants the right to void his contract after three years
and is asking for an average of $3 million a year, although he might settle for slightly more than the $2.78 million average Drew Bledsoe got last year from the New England Patriots.
Neither Redskins general manager Charley Casserly nor Shuler's agent, Tom Condon, would comment on the talks, but the negotiation is fast becoming a test of wills.
The Redskins are willing to come close, but not top Bledsoe's contract on the grounds that he was the first pick last year and Shuler was the third pick this year.
Shuler, though, has a lot of leverage because new coach Norv Turner is planning to rebuild the team around him.
Owner Jack Kent Cooke doesn't have a habit of caving in -- especially to rookies (Desmond Howard held out for 36 days in 1992).
Since linebacker Trev Alberts, the fifth player picked, expects to sign with the Colts today, Shuler will become the only unsigned player among the top five.
When Faulk, who rushed for 4,589 yards and 57 touchdowns in three years at San Diego State, joined the Indianapolis huddle, the other running backs proclaimed, "Superback is back."
Coach Ted Marchibroda said he expects Faulk to touch the ball 30 times a game and Faulk said, "I think I can do just about anything that is asked of me."
Redskins: Wycheck on mend
Former Maryland fullback Frank Wycheck, who is fighting for a starting job, will return to the Redskins' camp today. Wycheck, who suffered vertigo after receiving a concussion last week, was diagnosed with an inner ear problem.
Since he had a concussion last year, he may have to wear a special helmet.
Center John Gesek remains hospitalized in Arlington, Va., with a bulging disk in his back. The Redskins don't expect him to need surgery and are recommending rest. Three other starters, running back Reggie Brooks (hamstring) and defensive linemen Tim Johnson (hamstring) and Leonard Marshall (forearm), are sidelined. Two former starters, linebacker Kurt Gouveia (broken thumb) and tight end Ron Middleton (knee) also are ailing. . . A rookie free agent from North Alabama, Brian Satterfield, quit the Redskins yesterday. He decided he didn't want to play football.
Falcons: DE Smith suspended
June Jones, the new coach in Atlanta, doesn't follow the philosophy of Arizona Cardinals coach Buddy Ryan, who condones on-field fights.
Jones suspended defensive end Chuck Smith for three weeks (( for fighting with teammates during a weekend practice. Smith went after center Roman Fortin with his helmet in the most serious of three skirmishes.
Jones said Smith was suspended for "conduct detrimental to the team" and won't return until Aug. 14. A second-round pick in 1992, Smith is expected to combine with Chris Doleman on the team's pass rush.
Dolphins: Cox to sue NFL
Miami linebacker Bryan Cox said he plans to sue the NFL for forcing him to play in a "racially hostile environment" in Buffalo last Sept. 26. He was fined $10,000 -- later reduced to $3,000 -- by the league for responding to racial taunts from the fans with obscene gestures.
Cox, who had talked the week before the game about how he disliked Buffalo, said the NFL should "beef up security." He said he's not asking for money, but a change in league policy. He said the incident caused him to drink heavily late in the season.