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NFL Indsider - Mark Maske

Texans Making a Play for Pace

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 15, 2005; 11:19 AM

The Houston Texans are making a bid to acquire Orlando Pace, the six-time Pro Bowl left tackle who was given the St. Louis Rams' franchise-player tag last month.

Pace visited Houston on Monday and he and his representatives were in contract negotiations with the Texans. Any deal that Pace, the top overall selection in the 1997 NFL draft, signs probably would closely resemble the seven-year, $52.5-million contract extension that left tackle Walter Jones completed with the Seattle Seahawks before the free agent market opened. Jones's deal includes a $16 million signing bonus and $5 million in roster bonuses in 2006 and 2007.

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The problem for Pace and the Texans is that even if they work out a contract agreement, Houston still would have to agree with the Rams on a compensation package to obtain the left tackle. It's unlikely that the Texans would be willing to surrender the two first-round draft choices to which the Rams would be entitled under the franchise-player rules for allowing Pace to sign with another team. The Rams have given no indication at this point that they'd be willing to settle for lesser compensation in a trade.

The Texans have the 13th overall selection in the draft in April.

It's possible that Pace's deliberations with the Texans merely will end up being the leverage he needed to get the long-term contract with the Rams -- with a hefty signing bonus -- he has been seeking. But the clock is ticking on that: Under league rules, if he and the Rams don't agree to a long-term deal by 4 p.m. Wednesday, negotiations must be suspended until July 15. He still can sign an offer sheet with the Texans or another team during that time, however, and he still can be traded.

If Pace does not sign elsewhere or complete a long-term deal with the Rams, his one-year franchise-player contract with St. Louis next season would pay him slightly more than $8.4 million.

The Texans have been looking for a dependable left tackle since their ill-fated selection of Tony Boselli in the expansion draft. Boselli never played for Houston and retired because of shoulder problems. In his three seasons as the Texans' starting quarterback, David Carr has been sacked 140 times. Houston's starting left tackle last season was Seth Wand.

Available QBs Dwindling

The market for free-agent quarterbacks is getting thin now, with Gus Frerotte agreeing Monday to a two-year, $3 million contract with Miami that includes a $500,000 signing bonus. Frerotte's deal with the Dolphins reunites him with the club's new offensive coordinator, Scott Linehan. The two were together with the Minnesota Vikings. Frerotte likely will end up backing up A.J. Feeley but was told he would get an opportunity to compete for the starting job.

The last of the prominent veteran quarterbacks still available is Brad Johnson, the former Super Bowl winner for Tampa Bay who was released by the Buccaneers. Chicago, Minnesota and Seattle are competing to sign him. Johnson traveled to Seattle late Monday, following a meeting with the Vikings, for a visit with the Seahawks, who are looking for a veteran backup after trading Trent Dilfer to Cleveland. . . .

The Dolphins told fullback Rob Konrad he would be released. . . . New Orleans likely will release safety Tebucky Jones to avoid paying a $400,000 roster bonus. He appears poised to sign with Miami. . . .

Free-agent tight end Anthony Becht left the New York Jets by agreeing to a contract with the Buccaneers. The deal apparently is for five years but contains provisions to void the final three seasons, and is to be signed today. The Jets were thwarted in their attempt to land tight end Jeb Putzier in the restricted free agent market when their offer sheet was matched by Denver. They're scheduled to meet this week with veteran tight end Ken Dilger, an unrestricted free agent.

Becht, one of the Jets' four first-round draft picks in 2000, had only 13 receptions last season but was regarded as the top tight end available on the free-agent market. He had 133 catches in five seasons with the Jets. . . .

The Texans released linebacker Jay Foreman and safety Eric Brown. Foreman became expendable with the free-agent addition of linebacker Morlon Greenwood, and Houston found no takers for him on the trade market. Minnesota could sign Foreman, the son of former Vikings running back Chuck Foreman. Brown lost his starting job last season to Glenn Earl. . . .

Cleveland, as expected, released defensive end Courtney Brown, the top overall choice in the 2000 draft. Browns General Manager Phil Savage said in a written statement that the team would try to re-sign Brown to a more palatable contract. Cleveland signed free-agent defensive tackle Jason Fisk, who was with San Diego the past three seasons. . . .

The New York Giants released Norman Hand, made expendable by the signing of fellow defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy as a free agent. . . . Buffalo released safety Pierson Prioleau and tight end Ryan Neufeld.

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