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Wednesday, August 28
Updated: August 29, 8:12 PM ET
Jets, Martin agree to long-term deal

By Len Pasquarelli

Weeks of negotiations and contract discussions that were ratcheted up dramatically within the past few days culminated Thursday when the New York Jets announced that they have reached agreement with tailback Curtis Martin on an extension.

Curtis Martin

Martin will sign a five-year contract that provides the Jets the option of adding three more years to the deal. The eight-year deal, if New York exercised the option, would be worth $46 million. Over five seasons, the contract is worth about $30 million.

"I believe the organization here wanted me here,'' Martin said. "I understand the business aspects of the game. I've been in this situation before, and it didn't work out.

"I'm just appreciative they decided to keep me here.''

The signing bonus is $10 million and Martin will earn a base salary of $3.5 million for 2002. The Jets must decide on the first day of the 2003 league calendar, typically March 1, if they will exercise the option. If they decide to do so, they must pay Martin another bonus of about $2.9 million. There is a "default provision" that calls for the team to pay Martin $10 million if they do not exercise the option.

In addition, there are guaranteed roster bonuses totaling $2 million for the 2003 and 2004 seasons. So, in essence, agent Eugene Parker negotiated a contract that guarantees his client at least $18.4 million.

Parker overcame some obstacles -- the Marshall Faulk deal completed early this month, and the huge payout to Martin at an age when many tailbacks are beginning to decline -- to consummate one of the biggest contracts ever signed by a running back.

The agreement also significantly reduces the $9.5 million salary cap charge the Jets were carrying on Martin for this year and the $10 million cap impact for the 2003 season.

"Obviously I'm ecstatic,'' Jets coach Herman Edwards said. "Anytime you can keep an outstanding football player and an outstanding man that means a lot to me.

"This is what the NFL is all about. Everything he has done, he has worked for.

"Curtis Martin, as great as he is, he understands how to work. He's the guy when younger players come in and ask, 'What does it take for me to play in this league?' I say to just watch No. 28.''

Martin, 29, was scheduled to earn a base salary of $6.5 million in 2002, but $3 million of that was converted as part of the signing bonus. Three weeks ago, the St. Louis Rams signed Faulk to a seven-year contract worth $43.95 million, including a $9.3 million signing bonus.

New York has also been in contract negotiations with center Kevin Mawae and wide receiver Wayne Chrebet, and the cap savings created by the new Martin deal should ramp up those discussions.

A former University of Pittsburgh star, Martin rushed for a career-best 1,513 yards in 2001. For his career, he has carried 2,343 times for 9,267 yards and has been over 1,100 yards every year in the league. He has rushed for over 1,400 yards three times. Martin also has 328 receptions for 2,342 yards and eight touchdowns. Martin has said in recent weeks that he feels he can play six or seven more seasons and that he would like to retire as the NFL's career rushing leader.

"Curtis Martin is the consummate professional athlete both on and off the football field," Jets general manager Terry Bradway said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. "He represents this organization and the NFL with class and dignity. This contract extension provides him with the opportunity to continue and finish his career in New York and enables him to retire as a Jet."

Martin was chosen by the New England Patriots in the third round of the '95 draft, and moved to the Jets in 1998 as a "transition" free agent. Martin has appeared in 108 games and started 106 of them.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was used in this report.

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