Cap capsizes Ravens' ship

Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2002

The Baltimore Ravens are paying the price for trying to win a second straight Super Bowl last season.

The 2001 Super Bowl champions said Tuesday that they will cut eight key players, including tight end Shannon Sharpe, free safety Rod Woodson and wide receiver Qadry Ismail. Ozzie Newsome, the team's personnel director, also said that unless Elvis Grbac restructures the $30 million, five-year deal he signed last year, he won't be the team's quarterback next season.

The cuts are expected Thursday.

''We knew that we would be facing some serious cap issues in 2002, but the opportunity to win two Super Bowls in a row was overwhelming to us,'' Newsome said. ''What we're facing today is not something that's unexpected. I think everybody is ready for the challenge, to get this football team back where it was before.''

The Ravens weren't the only ones making moves to get ready for the March 1 deadline.

Two sources confirmed that Danny Wuerffel will be traded to Washington, rejoining Steve Spurrier, under whose guidance he won the 1996 Heisman trophy at Florida. Wuerffel, who hasn't thrown an NFL pass since 1999, and has completed fewer than 50 percent in his career, might get a shot at the starting job -- after Friday, second-year man Sage Rosenfels will be the only QB under contract in Washington.

The Detroit Lions did a 180-degree turn on Herman Moore, their leading career receiver.

According to Moore's agent, Brad Blank, the team told Moore that he would be released June 1 to save the team cap room. Moore has been injury plagued the last few years and had only four receptions last season.

But in the afternoon, they announced that Moore had agreed to renegotiate his contract to help give the team cap room.

''Herman is still a member of the Lions,'' said team president Matt Millen.

Denver, meanwhile, extended the contract of Rod Smith, who led the NFL with 113 receptions last season. The deal, done to give the Broncos more cap room, is worth $40 million over seven years, including an $11 million signing bonus.

Wide receiver-punt returner Tim Dwight turned down a chance for free agency by re-signing with the San Diego Chargers for $15 million over five years, including a $5 million signing bonus.

Linebacker Marvin Jones, a starter for virtually his entire nine-year NFL career, was released by the New York Jets. The team also waived veteran defensive lineman Shane Burton and reworked the contract of free safety Damien Robinson.

Jones, New York's first-round pick in the 1993 draft and fourth overall, comes off a strong season. But he would have counted $6 million against the salary cap, and when the team and Jones could not renegotiate his contract, he was released.

In New England, coach Bill Belichick said he was spending his time searching for a way to redo the contracts of linebacker Ted Johnson and defensive end Willie McGinest to help get under the $71.1 million salary cap. Johnson and McGinest are due to make $6.5 million between them and are prime candidates to be released if they don't restructure.

Belichick said that would delay any decision on quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who was replaced by Tom Brady this year and is expected to be traded.

''The players that are under contract, they'll get taken care of in due course. There's no active negotiations or anything like that,'' Belichick said. ''The most pressing problems are the ones that have to be handled immediately. The ones that can wait are waiting.''

But the Ravens are taking the biggest hit.

In addition to Woodson, Sharpe and Ismail, Baltimore will release defensive linemen Rob Burnett and Larry Webster; offensive lineman Kip Vickers, and fullback Sam Gash. The group also includes defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, who already had announced his retirement.

Woodson, Sharpe and Ismail together would have made $8.2 million next season, or more than 10 percent of the cap.

Newsome said all but Siragusa could come be brought back after June 1 for far smaller salaries.

But it's unlikely the Ravens will come close to resembling the Super Bowl winners. Two other key players, kick returner Jermaine Lewis and linebacker Jamie Sharper, were taken by Houston in last week's expansion draft after being placed on the list because their salaries were too high.



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