Tait joins Bears, Barton to Jets

Posted: Sunday, March 07, 2004

John Tait, a fixture on one of the NFL's best offensive lines in Kansas City, signed an offer sheet with the Chicago Bears on Saturday.

A transition player, Tait agreed to a six-year offer with Chicago. The Chiefs have a week to match the contract or let Tait, a six-year veteran, go to the Bears.

To keep Tait, the Chiefs would have to renegotiate some contracts or cut players to remain under the $80.6 million salary cap.

Tait moved from left tackle to right tackle after the 2001 season when the Chiefs acquired left tackle Willie Roaf from New Orleans. Tait has started 51 consecutive games, including every game the last two seasons.

The New York Jets, spurned by cornerback Antoine Winfield after believing they had a deal with him Winfield signed with Minnesota instead signed Arizona's David Barrett. New York gave Barrett a six-year, $21 million deal, including a $4.5 million signing bonus and a $1 million roster bonus. He's projected to start along with incumbent Donnie Abraham. The other 2003 starter, Aaron Beasley, was released last week.

''It's my understanding they signed him to start,'' said his agent, Drew Pittman.

Also joining the Jets was linebacker Eric Barton, who went to a Super Bowl with Oakland. Barton was a key member of the Raiders' defense that helped them win the 2002 AFC championship. Perennially one of Oakland's leading tacklers, he had 131 tackles last season, when the Raiders struggled defensively.

The Jets re-signed kicker Doug Brien. Pittsburgh brought back linebacker Clark Haggans in a move that likely means former All-Pro outside linebacker Jason Gildon won't return.

Haggans, a reserve since being a fifth-round draft pick in 2000, signed a $10.2 million, four-year contract that includes a $3 million signing bonus. He has been used primarily as a pass rusher and on special teams.

Pittsburgh signed free agent punter Chris Gardocki to a $6.5 million, five-year contract. Gardocki gets a $1 million signing bonus.

When they reached terms with the former Browns punter, the Steelers released Josh Miller, an eight-year veteran who at times has drawn the ire of coach Bill Cowher.

The Steelers will meet with free agent running back Duce Staley on Sunday. They also must decide whether to match New England's $1.3 million, one-year offer sheet to backup defensive end Rodney Bailey. The Patriots' offer includes a $650,000 signing bonus.

DT Rod Coleman got a $10 million signing bonus for a six-year deal worth $28.5 million. Coleman, who started a career-high 12 games and had 5 1/2 sacks for Oakland last season, will sign his contract Monday.

The Falcons also met with QB Jeff Garcia, cut by San Francisco last week.

Defensive end Bert Berry, quarterback Shaun King and fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo agreed to multiyear deals with the Cardinals.

Berry, one of the top pass-rushers available in free agency, led the Broncos' fourth-ranked defense last season with 11 1/2 sacks. Arizona has one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL.

King was 14-8 as a starter in Tampa Bay and guided the Buccaneers into the NFC championship game following the 1999 season. But he was a backup or even a third-stringer for much of his career.

Ayanbadejo caught 12 passes for 53 yards and played on special teams for Miami last season.

Defensive tackle Gerard Warren restructured his contract, giving the Cleveland Browns more flexibility under the salary cap. Warren, heading into his fourth season in the NFL, was a first-round draft pick in 2001.

Defensive tackle Steve Martin agreed to terms with the Vikings, his seventh NFL team.

St. Louis cornerback Jerametrius Butler, a restricted free agent, signed an offer sheet with the Redskins. The deal was completed Friday, giving the Rams a week to match the offer or let Butler go to Washington, which already has spent nearly $50 million in signing bonuses this month. The Skins gave Butler a six-year offer worth $15 million.

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