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Slash cut in slashing of payrolls

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2003

Washington Redskins running back Stephen Davis and Pittsburgh quarterback Kordell Stewart were cut Wednesday, adding two attractive players to what is otherwise a lackluster free-agent class.

The Denver Broncos gave quarterback Brian Griese permission to seek a trade, and Buffalo wide receiver Peerless Price is set to accept the team's franchise-player contract offer, then seek a trade.

The release of Davis, one of the NFL's top running backs for the last half-decade, had been expected. If he didn't renegotiate his contract, he would have counted $11.4 million against the Skins' cap this season.

So was the release of Stewart, who had an up-and-down career in Pittsburgh after becoming its starter in 1997. After leading the Steelers to the AFC title game in 2001, he lost his job to Tommy Maddox early last season.

Yet another big-time player, Emmitt Smith, continued to dangle as the free-agent deadline approached. All teams must be at or below the $74.8 million salary cap by midnight Thursday.

Kurt Warner received a $6 million roster bonus on Wednesday after attempts to restructure the quarterback's contract fell through.

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

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 defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield by San Francisco.

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.

Tim McGee, the agent for Price, said his client would accept the one-year, $5.01 million tender offer rather than try to negotiate a long-term contract with the Bills, for whom he had 94 receptions last season. Instead, Price would try to negotiate a deal with another team that would give Buffalo the first-round draft pick it surrendered last year when it traded for quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

''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.''

Dallas owner Jerry Jones said he would decide by the end of the week whether Smith would return next season. If he stays, Smith would count $9.8 million against the cap.

''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.''

That could set up an odd exchange: Smith to Washington and Davis to Dallas.

Even though Washington coach Steve Spurrier doesn't have a particularly good relationship with Smith, who left Florida the year the coach arrived, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder loves to sign big-name players, particularly if they played for NFC East rivals.

Last year, he picked up linebackers Jessie Armstead from the New York Giants and Jeremiah Trotter from Philadelphia.

Davis, meanwhile, would fit perfectly with the offensive philosophy of new Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, especially since the starting quarterback is inexperienced Chad Hutchinson.

The Cowboys also released oft-injured veteran wide receiver Raghib Ismail.

Stewart's release makes him one of the more attractive quarterbacks available in free agency, along with Arizona's Jake Plummer. Arizona, New Orleans, Baltimore, Carolina and Chicago might be among the teams interested in signing him.

''It's not like he totally lost his ability to be an effective quarterback in this league, but when he struggled early it presented Tommy an opportunity, which he took advantage of,'' coach Bill Cowher said.

Griese also could attract some interest, although he is not a free agent. The Broncos were expected to release Griese on June 1 in a cost-cutting move.

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.''

Cleveland's Rudd made headlines in the season opener, when he cost the Browns a win over Kansas City after being penalized for throwing his helmet on what would have been the final play of the game.

The Browns, who are $23 million over the cap, also released center Dave Wohlabaugh and cornerback Corey Fuller.

Detroit restructured the contract of defensive end Robert Porcher, the team's career sacks leader with 91.

The Miami Dolphins released receiver Dedric Ward.

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



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