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Supreme Court Takes Pass on Clarett's Appeal

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 4, 2005; 11:32 AM

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to consider Maurice Clarett's appeal of his lawsuit against the NFL.

The former Ohio State tailback sued the league in an unsuccessful attempt to enter last year's draft.

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A federal judge initially ruled in Clarett's favor, calling the NFL's draft-eligibility rule -- that a player must be at least three years removed from high school -- a violation of antitrust law. But a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court granted the NFL's request for an injunction that kept Clarett out of last year's draft, and two Supreme Court justices denied Clarett's requests for emergency relief. The appeals-court judges later overturned the initial ruling, siding with the league's argument that the draft-eligibility rule is legal because it was established through collective bargaining with the NFL Players Association.

Clarett continued to appeal the decision even though he is eligible for this month's draft. He hasn't played for two seasons since helping Ohio State to a national championship as a freshman.

Patriots, David Terrell Agree to Contract

The New England Patriots are giving a chance to wide receiver David Terrell, the former first-round draft pick who was a failure with the Chicago Bears but received an endorsement from his former University of Michigan teammate, quarterback Tom Brady.

The Patriots have agreed to a one-year contract with Terrell, who was released by the Bears in late February, two days after they signed wideout Muhsin Muhammad as a free agent. Brady, who has led the Patriots to three Super Bowl titles in four seasons, apparently urged the Patriots to sign Terrell. The two played together at Michigan in 1998 and '99.

Terrell, 26, was selected by Chicago with the eighth overall choice in the 2001 draft but had only 128 catches in four seasons with the Bears. He had 42 receptions for a career-best 699 yards last season, but that wasn't enough to keep him in the good graces of Coach Lovie Smith and General Manager Jerry Angelo. Terrell was penalized often for his celebrations and tantrums on the field, and he created headaches for club officials off the field with a series of traffic violations.

Terrell, who is listed at 6 feet 3 and 212 pounds, gives Brady a big target to go with the Patriots' small, quick receivers -- David Givens, Deion Branch and Bethel Johnson. The defending champions lost wideout David Patten to the Washington Redskins in free agency and it's unclear if they will re-sign veteran wide receiver Troy Brown, who doubled as a defensive back last season and now is a free agent after New England declined to exercise an option in his contract for next season.

Restricted Free Agency Winding Down

The restricted free agent market closes at the end of next week, so teams are taking a final look to see if they want to sign an available player to an offer sheet.

The Cleveland Browns signed Minnesota Vikings safety Brian Russell to a two-year offer sheet over the weekend. He became the fourth restricted free agent to sign an offer sheet with another club this offseason. Only one of the previous three, cornerback Kelly Herndon, changed teams, going from the Denver Broncos to the Seattle Seahawks. The Broncos retained tight end Jeb Putzier by matching an offer sheet that he signed with the New York Jets, and the Baltimore Ravens kept tailback Chester Taylor by matching his offer sheet with the Browns. . . .

One notable restricted free agent who took himself off the market is tailback Najeh Davenport, who re-signed with the Green Bay Packers late last week. Some in the league regard Davenport as a potential starter who is stuck behind Ahman Green with the Packers, and a team signing him in restricted free agency would have owed Green Bay only a fourth-round draft pick as compensation. But he received surprisingly little interest, perhaps in part because he underwent shoulder surgery last month. Davenport signed a one-year contract with the Packers and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next offseason.

Linebacker Market Bolstered

Any team needing a linebacker got to add a couple more candidates to its list when two former starters, Houston's Jamie Sharper and Atlanta's Chris Draft, were released late last week.

The Texans gave Sharper and fellow linebacker Jay Foreman permission to seek trades after signing Morlon Greenwood as a free agent. Houston was unable to trade either player, and previously had cut Foreman. But Sharper already is in demand as a free agent. Several teams--including Seattle, Cincinnati, Jacksonville and Cleveland -- are pursuing him now that it won't cost a club a draft pick in a trade to acquire him.

Draft became expendable when the Falcons signed Edgerton Hartwell as a free agent to take over as their starting middle linebacker. . . .

The Kansas City Chiefs have agreed to a contract extension with Patrick Surtain as a precursor to a possible trade with the Miami Dolphins for the veteran cornerback. But the new contract takes effect only if the two teams can agree to the other half of the trade, and that hasn't happened yet. The Dolphins want a second-round draft choice this month for Surtain, and the Chiefs are offering a fourth-rounder. The clubs can't settle on a third-rounder even if they want to do so. The Chiefs' only selection in the third round, at this point, is a compensatory pick awarded by the NFL, and such selections cannot be traded. The stare-down could last until draft weekend. The Chiefs have expressed interest in free agent Ty Law as a possible alternative. . . .

Tampa Bay made a potentially productive signing late last week by adding free-agent defensive tackle Chris Hovan. The Buccaneers got Hovan on the cheap, and now can only hope he regains the form that once made him a force on Minnesota's defensive line before his play deteriorated the past two seasons. . . .

The Buccaneers also re-signed safety Dexter Jackson. . . . There was some movement among free-agent running backs late last week, as Antowain Smith signed with New Orleans as a potential backup to Deuce McAllister and Ron Dayne joined Denver's crowded backfield. . . . The Broncos also re-signed tight end Patrick Hape and defensive tackle Luther Elliss, both unrestricted free agents, and defensive tackle Monsanto Pope, a restricted free agent. . . . Detroit signed free-agent running back Jamel White. . . . The Browns released safety Earl Little. . . . The Dolphins signed free-agent cornerback Mario Edwards over the weekend, perhaps as a possible replacement for Surtain if the trade with Kansas City is made.

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