It paid to stay.
When former USC linebacker Keith Rivers ended a holdout and signed with the Cincinnati Bengals this week, the Trojans' celebrated senior class of 2007 allowed Coach Pete Carroll to offer nearly 50 million reasons why players should exhaust their eligibility before turning pro.
Rivers, defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, offensive lineman Sam Baker and defensive end Lawrence Jackson all considered declaring for the NFL draft after their junior seasons in 2006. They returned and parlayed their decisions into first-round selections last April and five-year contracts that guarantee a combined $49.2 million.
"Those numbers, they wow me," said senior linebacker Rey Maualuga, the defensive MVP of the 2008 Rose Bowl who opted to return for a final season.
Carroll said it wasn't difficult to determine the benefit of staying for a final season -- unless a junior is projected as the top player at his position.
"We don't have to try and build it up because it's so obvious, it's crazy," Carroll said.
Ellis, the seventh overall pick this year by the New Orleans Saints, signed for a guaranteed $19.5 million and could make as much as $49 million. Rivers is guaranteed $15.6 million and could earn as much as $23 million. Baker got an $8-million bonus and could earn $14 million. Jackson is guaranteed $6.1 million of an $11.25-million deal.
Offensive lineman Chilo Rachal left after his junior season and was taken in the second round with the 39th pick, signing a four-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers that included an undisclosed bonus. Tight end Fred Davis, taken 48th by the Washington Redskins after a Mackey Award-winning senior season, received a $1.8-million bonus. The New York Giants picked cornerback Terrell Thomas in the second round and signed him for an undisclosed sum.
"Overall, how they ended up, it made my decision a lot more clear," Maualuga said. "I'm happier with it."
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They're eligible for some extra cash
USC seniors selected in first two rounds of the 2008 NFL draft:
*--* Name Pos. Round Overall Guarantee Maximum Sedrick Ellis DL 1 7 $19.5 million $49 million Keith Rivers LB 1 9 $15.6 million $23 million Sam Baker OL 1 21 $8 million $14 million Lawrence Jackson DL 1 28 $6.1 million $11.25 million Fred Davis TE 2 48 $1.8 million $3.5 million Terrell Thomas DB 2 63 NA NA *--*
USC players who entered the NFL draft before exhausting their eligibility under Coach Pete Carroll:
*--* 2004 Pos. Round Overall Guarantee Maximum Kenechi Udeze DE 1 20 $5.1 million $8 million 2005 Pos. Round Overall Guarantee Maximum Mike Williams WR 1 10 $10.5 million $13.5 million Lofa Tatupu LB 2 45 $2.2 million NA* **Manuel Wright DL 5 NA NA NA 2006 Pos. Round Overall Guarantee Maximum Reggie Bush RB 1 2 $26 million $60 million Winston Justice OL 2 39 $2.1 million $3.71 million LenDale White RB 2 45 $1.3 million $2.91 million Darnell Bing S 4 101 NA NA Fred Matua OL 7 217 NA NA 2007 Pos. Round Overall Guarantee Maximum Dwayne Jarrett WR 2 45 $1.9 million $3.8 million 2008 Pos. Round Overall Guarantee Maximum Chilo Rachal OL 2 39 NA NA *--*
* In March, Tatupu signed a six-year, $42-million extension of which $18 million is guaranteed.
** Taken in supplemental portion of draft.
Gary Klein Los Angeles Times