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Chargers Slap Their Franchise-Player Tag on Brees

Friday, February 18, 2005; Page D02

The San Diego Chargers placed their franchise-player tag on Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees yesterday.

Brees would have a salary of $8.078 million next season as the franchise player. He can negotiate with other teams after the free agent market opens March 2 and can sign an offer sheet with another club if he chooses.

Chargers quarterback Drew Brees, who made the Pro Bowl, could earn $8.078 million next season. (Fred Greaves -- Reuters)

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However, the Chargers have the right to retain him by matching any offer sheet, or would receive two first-round draft choices from Brees's new team as compensation if they permit him to leave.

The Chargers opted against making Brees their exclusive franchise player. That would have prohibited him from negotiating with other teams, but the $8.078 million figure for his salary next season could have been adjusted upward in the coming months to reflect upcoming signings around the league.

Chargers GM A.J. Smith said during a news conference yesterday that the club doesn't intend to negotiate a long-term contract with Brees, and indicated that Coach Marty Schottenheimer plans to give Philip Rivers a chance to win the starting job even though Brees will open training camp atop the depth chart. . . .

Todd Grantham, who spent the past three seasons coaching Houston's defensive linemen, was hired as defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns. Coach Romeo Crennel also added Dave Atkins to his staff as running backs coach. Atkins was with New Orleans the last five seasons.

COURTS: Former Colorado Avalanche player Steve Moore sued Vancouver Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi, who pleaded guilty to assault after slugging Moore in the head from behind during a game last season.

Moore's lawyer, Lee Foreman, said in a statement that the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Denver District Court accuses Bertuzzi of civil conspiracy, assault, battery and negligence. Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to criminal assault and was given a conditional discharge in December, more than nine months after the attack during a game in Vancouver. He also was suspended indefinitely from the NHL.

HORSE RACING: With an eye on creating a four-race "Grand Slam of Grass" series that would rank among the most important turf racing events in the country, Colonial Downs received approval from the Virginia Racing Commission to increase the purses of the Virginia Derby and its new race, the Colonial Turf Cup. The track, in New Kent County, Va., bumped up the purse for its marquee race, the 1¼-mile Grade III Virginia Derby for 3-year-olds on July 16, from $500,000 to $750,000.

The Colonial Turf Cup, a 1 3/16-mile prep race for the Derby to be run June 25, will be worth $500,000. That puts it in a league with the Grade I $500,000 Pimlico Special, the second-richest race in Maryland after the $1 million Preakness Stakes.

-- From News Services and Staff Reports

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