It seemed virtually certain when the season ended that Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter would opt to remain with the Philadelphia Eagles.
It doesn't seem quite so certain any more, however.
Trotter, an unrestricted free agent, began a visit with the Kansas City Chiefs on Wednesday and underwent a physical. The visit is scheduled to conclude today, and the Chiefs probably will try to sign one or more of the top defensive free agents they brought to town -- Trotter, fellow linebacker Edgerton Hartwell of the Baltimore Ravens and cornerback Samari Rolle, who was released by the Tennessee Titans in their recent salary-cap purge -- by day's end.
There are concerns about the condition of Trotter's creaky knees. He couldn't find a starting job last offseason after he was released by the Washington Redskins, and was forced to return to the Eagles for a minimum-salary contract to be a backup. He became a starter as part of a midseason lineup reshuffling by defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, though, and toughened the Philadelphia defense considerably in helping the Eagles to reach last month's Super Bowl.
Trotter could be wary of leaving Philadelphia again. The last time he did so, departing amid a bitter set of contract negotiations following the 2001 season, he ended up spending two miserable, injury-filled seasons with the Redskins that nearly ruined his career. He returned to the Eagles and thrived. But he apparently is willing to consider the possibility of exiting again.
The Chiefs finally seem committed to upgrading their defensive personnel. If they don't land Trotter or Hartwell, they probably will try to get another free-agent linebacker, perhaps Kendrell Bell. If they aren't willing to meet Rolle's steep asking price, they likely would turn to another free-agent cornerback, either Fred Smoot or Ken Lucas. They've been discussing a possible trade with Miami for cornerback Patrick Surtain but seem unwilling to surrender a high draft pick.
Jennings To 49ers
If the San Francisco 49ers end up using the top overall choice in the draft in April on a quarterback, either Aaron Rodgers or Alex Smith, they will have a left tackle already in place to safeguard him. They ensured that late Wednesday by agreeing to a seven-year contract with Jonas Jennings worth just more than $5 million per season. The deal includes a signing bonus of approximately $12 million.
The 49ers spent much of Wednesday competing with the New York Jets for Jennings, formerly of the Buffalo Bills. The Jets wanted to sign him and move Jason Fabini from left tackle to right tackle to replace likely-to-depart free agent Kareem McKenzie. But the 49ers convinced Jennings, the closest thing to a proven left tackle on the unrestricted free agent market, to visit the Bay Area, and then got him to agree to a deal . . . .
The New England Patriots won their third Super Bowl title in four seasons with youngsters Asante Samuel and Randall Gay starting at cornerback, following midseason injuries to veterans Ty Law and Tyrone Poole. But, with Law having been released, the defending champions are upgrading at the position.
They reached a tentative agreement Wednesday to trade a third-round draft selection to Arizona for cornerback Duane Starks. The two clubs also would switch draft slots in the fifth round. Starks must agree to a restructured contract for the deal to be completed, which perhaps could happen today . . . .
The St. Louis Rams hope to sign Chris Claiborne, a free-agent linebacker from the Minnesota Vikings, today. The Rams began restocking their linebacker corps by signing Dexter Coakley on Wednesday.
Warner On Tour
Quarterback Kurt Warner's free-agent tour begins today in Arizona with a visit to the Cardinals' facilities. Warner is scheduled to visit the Bears on Friday in Chicago, then plans to go to Detroit over the weekend for a meeting with the Lions.
The quarterback carousel -- with Warner, Brad Johnson, Jeff Garcia and Jay Fiedler among those looking for new teams -- probably won't begin spinning until next week, when the quarterbacks and the clubs interested in them likely will begin making their choices. Fiedler, released by Miami, is to meet with the New York Giants today.
Day One Winners And Losers
Dallas and Oakland were the big winners on Wednesday, the first day of the free agency and trading periods.
The Cowboys, after signing quarterback Drew Bledsoe previously, focused on their defense Wednesday and added two players who should help considerably. Defensive tackle Jason Ferguson left the Jets for a five-year, $21.5 million contract that includes a $9 million signing bonus. Cornerback Anthony Henry departed Cleveland for a five-year, $25 million deal that includes an $11 million signing bonus. Dallas also re-signed defensive tackle Leonardo Carson and safety Lynn Scott to one-year contracts, worth $1 million for Carson and $700,000 for Scott.
The Raiders officially completed their trade for wide receiver Randy Moss -- with linebacker Napoleon Harris and two draft choices in the April, the seventh overall pick and a seventh-round choice, going to Minnesota -- and then got a running-game complement for him by agreeing to a five-year, $27.5 million contract with free-agent tailback LaMont Jordan. Jordan backed up Curtis Martin with the Jets but was regarded as the best tailback available in unrestricted free agency.
The Jets and Bills were the biggest day-one losers. The Jets had wanted to retain both Ferguson and Jordan. They kept neither, and they lost out on Jennings to San Francisco. Buffalo lost key players on the offensive and defensive lines, with Jennings going to the 49ers and free-agent defensive tackle Pat Williams agreeing to a three-year, $13 million deal with the Vikings that includes $6 million in bonus money . . . .
Defensive linemen were in demand as the market opened. Tackle Seth Payne re-signed with Houston for $16 million over four seasons; the deal includes a $4.5 million signing bonus. End Reggie Hayward, formerly of Denver, signed with Jacksonville for $25 million over five years, including $10 million in bonus money . . . .
Wide receiver Derrick Mason's five-year contract with Baltimore is worth about $20 million, including a $7 million signing bonus . . . . Wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh got approximately $13 million over four seasons to re-sign with Cincinnati . . . .
The Eagles re-signed tailback Correll Bukhalter and defensive end Hugh Douglas, both unrestricted free agents, on Wednesday . . . .
The Giants hosted Bell on a visit Wednesday before agreeing late in the day to a six-year, $26 million deal with free-agent middle linebacker Antonio Pierce of the Redskins . . . .
Guard Joe Andruzzi left the Patriots to join Browns Coach Romeo Crennel, formerly New England's defensive coordinator, in Cleveland. Andruzzi's four-year contract with the Browns is worth about $9 million . . . .
Indianapolis saved about $2.6 million on the $85.5 million salary cap by releasing tight end Marcus Pollard . . . . New Orleans cleared about $3.3 million in cap space by releasing wide receiver Jerome Pathon . . . The Raiders released tailback Tyrone Wheatley and defensive tackle John Parrella . . . . Seattle might release linebacker Anthony Simmons before he is to receive a $500,000 roster bonus Monday.
The NFL's team owners met on Wednesday in Atlanta to discuss the league's ongoing labor and television negotiations. The owners seem to share the optimism of the NFL Players Association that an extension of their collective bargaining agreement perhaps could be completed by the middle of this month.
Broncos Close To Gold Deal
Denver appears close to signing linebacker Ian Gold, who was released by Tampa Bay. Gold left the Broncos for the Buccaneers in free agency last year, but appears poised to return to Denver for a five-year contract worth about $23 million, including a signing bonus of approximately $9 million. . . .
The Broncos have reached a tentative agreement on a five-year deal to re-sign guard Ben Hamilton, an unrestricted free agent. . . .
Defensive end Chike Okeafor, an unrestricted free agent from Seattle, is scheduled to visit Denver today. . . .
Dallas is trying to complete a deal today with free-agent guard Marco Rivera, a Pro Bowler for Green Bay. . . .
The Packers could be about to lose both of their starting guards. Mike Wahle, who was released by Green Bay in a salary-cap move, appears close to signing with Carolina. It would be a significant move for the Panthers, whose offensive line was a major trouble spot this past season. Wahle can play tackle or guard, and is regarded as one of the best offensive linemen available in free agency. . . .
The Ravens hope to re-sign free-agent cornerback Gary Baxter today. . . .
Baltimore tailback Chester Taylor, a restricted free agent, visited Cleveland on Wednesday. . . .
Houston is negotiating with Morlon Greenwood, a free-agent linebacker from Miami, in hopes of signing him today. . . .
Dolphins officials spoke Wednesday to agent Drew Rosenhaus about Indianapolis tailback Edgerrin James. James was given the Colts' franchise-player tag but would like to be traded to Miami. . . .
The Dolphins hosted defensive lineman Kevin Carter, cut by Tennessee, on a visit Wednesday. . . .
Oakland, San Diego and Minnesota are among the clubs talking to the Dolphins about a possible trade for Surtain. . . .
The Chargers are trying to sign Allen Rossum, Atlanta's Pro Bowl kick returner who is an unrestricted free agent. . . .
Tampa Bay released Joe Jurevicius in a salary-cap maneuver but wants to re-sign the wide receiver to a cheaper contract. The Buccaneers, however, might get competition from the Giants.
Draft Leaves Garden
The league is moving next month's draft from Madison Square Garden to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, a few blocks away in New York City. The NFL's contract with the Garden had expired and league officials didn't want to keep the draft in the arena's theater because the Dolan family, which owns the Garden, has aggressively opposed the construction of a proposed stadium for the Jets in Manhattan. . . . .
Steelers tailback Jerome Bettis told a Pittsburgh television station that, although he has agreed to a restructured contract, he isn't certain that he will play next season. Bettis indicated that he plans to make a decision in June about whether to retire or continue playing.