Sunday, March 17, 2002

NFL insider

Family makes Jets easy choice for offensive lineman Szott

Enquirer news services

        Dave Szott saw that his son Josh, 3, had awakened from his nap.

        “We signed a contract today, Josh,” he said.

        “We did?” said his son. “Yeah!”

        Szott, even though he is 34 and has played 12 seasons in the NFL, had a similar reaction after he confirmed Friday that he had just signed a three-year deal to join the Jets' offensive line.

        “I think it's a good fit all the way around,” said Szott, a native of nearby Clifton, N.J. who is in position to become the starting left guard after free agent Kerry Jenkins left for Tampa Bay last week. “I told them all along this is where I want to be and I'll take less money to be here because that's what's best for my family.”

        The Jets, who prefer to wait for the league to approve their contracts before announcing their signings, wouldn't confirm the Szott deal. But the deal is believed to pay Szott more than $4million over three seasons.

        Also, the Jets were willing to make allowances for Szott's family situation. His older son, Shane, 7, has cerebral palsy and attends a special school in Morris County, N.J.

        “They were willing to give me Mondays off to be home with my family and to make arrangements for Shane to be able to come to games,” Szott said.

        The Jets moved quickly to replace Jenkins, also bringing in Chris Naeole from New Orleans and Bob Hallen from Atlanta for visits.

        But Szott had the inside track. He spent many seasons on Chiefs teams with Jets general manager Terry Bradway, coach Herman Edwards, coordinator Paul Hackett and offensive assistant Jimmy Raye.

        Szott has just one regret: He probably will never play for the Giants, his favorite team since third grade.

        But, “At this point in my career, to finish up with the Jets, being from Clifton, I couldn't write a better storyline,” he said.


        The team agreed to a four-year contract with former Philadelphia linebacker Mike Caldwell and gave itself some protection against the possible loss of three-year starter Warrick Holdman.

        Caldwell, 30, will earn $4.68 million over four years — $750,000 up front in signing bonus and a $250,000 workout bonus to go with a first-year salary of $650,000. He started all 16 games last season for the Eagles and finished second on the team with 140 tackles, and also had three sacks and eight special-teams tackles.

        Depending on how the Bears respond to any offer sheet given to Holdman, Caldwell could be the starter.

        “Basically I'm just going to come in and contribute,” Caldwell, who has played both weak and strong sides and on special teams, said.

        “I feel I'm going to a top-notch program. They're on the rise and I feel I can add a piece to it.”

        The 6-foot-2-inch, 237-pound Caldwell was a third-round selection by the Cleveland Browns in 1993.


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