Denver agreed to contract terms with middle linebacker Al Wilson on Tuesday, clearing the way for the Broncos to work on a deal that could bring them cornerback Champ Bailey from Washington for running back Clinton Portis.
Wilson, a three-time Pro Bowler, could have become a free agent March 3. He agreed to a seven-year, $42 million contract with a $10 million signing bonus.
Washington, meanwhile, cut career sack leader Bruce Smith and released veteran linebacker Jessie Armstead as part of its attempt to get under the salary cap, officially set by the NFL Tuesday at just under $80.6 million.
Tuesday was the deadline for teams to declare franchise players to keep them from becoming free agents when the signing period begins next week.
Green Bay protected left tackle Chad Clifton while continuing to negotiate with him and Jacksonville put the tag on safety Donovin Darius for the second straight season. Seattle designated left tackle Walter Jones, a four-time Pro Bowler.
But Tennessee declined to make Jevon Kearse its franchise player, continuing to negotiate with the oft-injured defensive end. The Titans are an estimated $16 million over the salary cap.
''This does not end the process with Jevon,'' general manager Floyd Reese said in a statement. ''We would still like to have him as part of this team, just not under the 'franchise tag' parameters.''
Kansas City designated offensive tackle John Tait as its team's transition player. The designation gives the Chiefs seven days to match any offer given to Tait by another team during the unrestricted free agency period, which ends July 22.
Bailey was designated by the Redskins as their franchise player last week.
But they continued to actively market him with the most intriguing potential deal the one that would send him to Denver for Portis, who rushed for 1,591 yards last season. Portis, due to make $300,000 in his third season, has asked to redo his contract but the Broncos have refused.
Vinny Cerrato, Washington's director of player personnel, said he also is talking to four other teams, including one that contacted him Tuesday morning.
Cerrato did not name all the teams. Jack Reale, Bailey's agent, says the Redskins have talked to the New York Jets, Houston, Chicago and Arizona, among others.
One of the holdups in the Washington-Denver talks was said to be the Broncos' negotiations with Wilson.
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