Thursday, February 27, 2003

NFL teams cut big names,
big salaries

Davis, Stewart, Stubblefield released

By Barry Wilner
The Associated Press

One day before the start of free agency, some big names are looking for jobs. Stephen Davis, Kordell Stewart and Dana Stubblefield became available when they were released by their NFL teams on Wednesday. The free agency period begins after midnight Friday.

Also on the market are quarterback Brian Griese, who is not a free agent, but who received permission from the Denver Broncos to seek a trade. The agent for Buffalo receiver Peerless Price is hoping to work out a trade after his client signs a one-year tender offer with the Bills.

Davis' release was expected. The only player in Redskins history to run for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons, he was due to count $11.4 million against the $74.8 million salary cap. And he didn't really fit into coach Steve Spurrier's offensive schemes.

Washington saved $5.2 million this year by cutting Davis.

The Redskins also released former starting safety Sam Shade and tight end Walter Rasby.

Stewart, who lost his starting job in Pittsburgh to NFL Comeback Player of the Year Tommy Maddox, led the Steelers to two AFC championship games. But his inconsistency doomed him.

By waiving Stewart, the Steelers cleared $6.3 million of cap room, getting them under the ceiling.

"In order for us to comply with the salary cap, we are forced to make some very difficult decisions," coach Bill Cowher said. "He was a terrific player for us and always handled himself as a consummate professional."

Stubblefield, in his second tour with San Francisco, comes off a mediocre year and was going to make $2.325 million in 2003. The NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1997, he started 15 games last season, making 43 tackles and three sacks last season.

"At times, Dana played very well," general manager Terry Donahue said. "At other times, he struggled, particularly toward the end of the season when his weight got a little higher on him. He was a leader in the locker room, though. He was a great acquisition for us."

Several teams were busy holding onto players Wednesday.

The Rams, as they said they would earlier in the week, paid Kurt Warner a $6 million roster bonus after attempts to restructure the quarterback's contract fell through. Previously, coach Mike Martz said the two-time league MVP coming off an injury-spoiled season, would remain the starter.

"It's all finished," coach Mike Martz said. "I'm just happy as heck that we've got him."

Detroit restructured the contract of three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Porcher, the team's career sacks leader with 91.

And Terrell Davis, hoping his knees will be healthy enough to make a comeback, agreed in principle to a restructured contract that would allow him to return to the Broncos, a source told The Associated Press. He had microfracture surgery on his left knee on Sept. 9, his fifth surgery in three years.

The Broncos were expected to release Griese on June 1 in a cost-cutting move. For now, he has permission to work out a deal, which could be difficult, given the $9.2 million he would count against the salary cap.

Griese's agent, Ralph Cindrich, said there was little doubt the Broncos were looking to unload Griese.

"I don't have a specific answer, but if I were to say in percentages it would be in the high 90s," Cindrich said. "That's fairly well understood. It's hard to bring a starter back in those circumstances."

Price is a big-play starter for Buffalo, but he wants the kind of money No. 1 receivers get. That role belongs to Eric Moulds on the Bills, so although Price is set to accept the team's $5.01 million offer as a franchise player, his agent, Tim McGee, will then seek a trade.

"We're going to pursue what's in Peerless' best interest," McGee said. "And if there's nothing out there that could afford him an opportunity to be a free agent, we're going to take the tender and play for the Buffalo Bills next year."

Where will Emmitt Smith play?

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Wednesday he would decide by the end of the week whether Smith, who passed Walter Payton for the NFL career rushing lead last October, would return next season. If he stays, Smith would count $9.8 million against the cap without a renegotiated contract.

"We know he's NFL royalty, he's Dallas Cowboys royalty," Jones said. "But this is about the future of the team. It's not about Emmitt's ability to play. We know he can play."

Among other veterans released Wednesday were quarterback Jim Miller and offensive tackle James "Big Cat" Williams by Chicago; tight end Wesley Walls by Carolina; linebacker Dwayne Rudd by Cleveland; and Dallas' oft-injured veteran wide receiver, Raghib Ismail.

Philadelphia signed backup quarterback Koy Detmer to a four-year deal.

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