On a day other teams were figuring out ways to cut costs to get under the salary cap, the Washington Redskins as usual were spending money.
The Redskins agreed Monday to a $50.5 million, eight-year deal with running back Clinton Portis, all but completing the trade that will send four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round draft choice to Denver.
But that can't become official until Wednesday, the start of the free agent season.
A lot of NFL players lost jobs and others got new deals as teams prepared to get under the $80.6 million cap. Another player got an early surprise: Carson Palmer was designated the starting quarterback by the Cincinnati Bengals even though he has yet to take an NFL snap.
Drew Rosenhaus, Portis' agent, confirmed the deal for his client, who gained 1,591 yards for the Broncos last season. The package includes $17 million in bonuses.
Bailey was still working on a contract with the Broncos, but the sides appeared close.
''Everything is skating right along on schedule,'' said his agent, Jack Reale. ''Things could be wrapped up quickly, maybe by tomorrow.''
In Cincinnati, meanwhile, coach Marvin Lewis awarded the Bengals' quarterback job to Palmer, the 2002 Heisman winner and the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft.
He will replace Jon Kitna, who was the NFL Comeback Player of the Year last season for keeping the Bengals in playoff contention until the final weeks of the season.
Lewis said the reason he made the announcement now was to get the other players prepared for the change.
''It puts the pressure on the rest of our football team,'' he said. ''That's why right now is the time to do this. I want everybody to understand the responsibility that comes to them.''
Kitna, the only quarterback to take every snap for his team last season, said the team was essentially starting over.
''I thought offensively we were pretty good and we'd really done some positive things and did some things that people said we couldn't do, both individually and as an offense,'' he said.
In other moves:
Buffalo cut eight-time Pro Bowl guard Ruben Brown, who would have been due a $1.8 million roster bonus. Team president Tom Donahoe said other factors figured into the release, although he did not specify them.
Carolina re-signed wide receiver Steve Smith, who could have become a restricted free agent. Smith led the Panthers last season with 88 receptions for 1,110 yards, then had 19 catches for 424 yards and three touchdowns in the playoffs as Carolina made it to the Super Bowl. The Panthers also re-signed defensive lineman Al Wallace, a key reserve.
Running back Jerome Bettis agreed to a hefty pay cut from Pittsburgh. The 32-year-old Bettis, sixth on the NFL's career rushing list, will make $1 million, with $1 million in incentives. He was due to have made $3.75 million plus a $750,000 roster bonus.
Linebacker Mo Lewis, who started 200 games for the New York Jets for all 13 of his NFL seasons, was released in a cap move. The Jets also released both starting safeties from last season, Sam Garnes and Tyrone Carter.
Chicago released Kordell Stewart, ending a disappointing one-year run with the quarterback who lost his job to rookie Rex Grossman. Stewart signed a two-year, $5 million deal as a free agent nearly a year ago.
The Bears also released defensive end Phillip Daniels.
Cornerback Ray Buchanan, an 11-year veteran dubbed ''Big Play Ray,'' was released by Atlanta. Buchanan struggled the last two seasons with the Falcons.
Also cut was 10-year veteran linebacker Sam Rogers.
Jason Taylor agreed to a six-year, $45 million contract that reduces the Dolphins' 2004 salary-cap figure by $4 million, a source close to the negotiations said on condition of anonymity.
The defensive end will now be under contract through 2009.
The Dolphins also are negotiating a new contract with quarterback Jay Fiedler, who also received permission to seek a trade.
Tennessee reached agreement on a multiyear contract with receiver Drew Bennett, who could have become a restricted free agent. Another receiver in that category, Justin McCareins, received a tender offer that will require a first-round draft choice as compensation.
Among others to re-sign with their teams were center Mike Flynn of Baltimore; defensive tackle Josh Williams of Indianapolis; and guard Russ Hochstein of New England.
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