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NFL Indsider - Mark Maske

For Restricted Free Agents, a Bullish Market

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 15, 2005; 1:22 PM

Today is the final day for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets with other teams. A few agents with players on the restricted free agent market were still hoping to strike deals today. But even if there's no last-day flurry of activity, the market has been relatively active this year.

Three restricted free agents signed offer sheets with other clubs on Wednesday. Detroit signed Tennessee linebacker Brad Kassell and San Francisco guard Kyle Kosier to one-year offer sheets worth about $1 million apiece, and Minnesota signed Green Bay defensive end Aaron Kampman to a one-year, $1.2 million offer sheet. The Titans, 49ers and Packers have until next Wednesday to decide whether to match the offers and retain their players.

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Time for 49ers to Get Serious About Top Pick (washingtonpost.com, Apr 14, 2005)
NFL Opts for Only Two Games on Christmas (washingtonpost.com, Apr 13, 2005)
Patriots Sign Dillon to Two-Year Contract Extension (washingtonpost.com, Apr 12, 2005)

That brought this year's total to seven restricted free agents who had signed offer sheets with other teams. Two of the previous four changed clubs: Cornerback Kelly Herndon went from Denver to Seattle, and safety Brian Russell moved from Minnesota to Cleveland. The Broncos matched an offer by the New York Jets to tight end Jeb Putzier, and the Baltimore Ravens retained tailback Chester Taylor by matching a Browns' offer sheet.

T.O. Making Waves

Wide receiver Terrell Owens and his new agent, Drew Rosenhaus, are maintaining publicly that it's just business, that Owens has no ill will toward the Philadelphia Eagles and his desire to renegotiate his contract one season into a seven-year deal is merely the flip side of a team releasing an under-performing player midway through a long-term contract.

But it will be interesting to see how the Eagles react to the waves being created by Owens and Rosenhaus. They don't seem willing to discuss a new contract for Owens with Rosenhaus, and Coach Andy Reid never has had much patience for malcontents even when they're among his best players. Reid cut loose Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter a few years ago in the middle of a bitter contract dispute, withdrawing the franchise-player tag that the club had placed on him. A humbled Trotter ended up returning to the Eagles last season -- and reaching the Pro Bowl again -- after two miserable seasons with the Washington Redskins.

Owens and Rosenhaus maintain that Owens had little choice but to agree to his seven-year, $48.97 million contract with the Eagles that he signed in March 2004 as part of a settlement of a dispute over his free-agent status. Owens's previous agent, David Joseph, failed to file the necessary paperwork to void the remainder of Owens's contract with the 49ers and make him a free agent. The league ruled that Owens remained under contract to the 49ers, who traded him to the Ravens. But the NFL Players Association filed a case to special master Stephen B. Burbank, the University of Pennsylvania law professor who's in charge of resolving disputes arising from the sport's collective bargaining agreement, and Burbank appeared ready to declare Owens a free agent following a hearing. The parties then hurriedly agreed to the settlement that undid the trade to the Ravens and placed Owens with the team of his choice, the Eagles.

Rosenhaus and Owens now maintain that Owens had no leverage in contract negotiations with the Eagles and accepted a below-market-value deal. The problem with the assertion is that Owens had all the leverage. People involved in the case were convinced that Burbank was prepared to declare him a free agent. Participants in the hearing said soon afterward that Burbank told the league's attorneys near the end of the proceeding they didn't have much of a case for keeping Owens from being a free agent. If Owens didn't like the contract the Eagles were going to give him, he could have opted for free agency. Players Association chief Gene Upshaw said at the time that before he signed off on the settlement, he asked Owens if that was what Owens wanted, and Owens said yes.

Owens's contract included $16 million in bonuses -- a $2.3 million signing bonus, a $6.2 million option bonus last year and a $2.5 million option bonus and $5 million roster bonus in 2006. He had a salary of $660,000 last season and is to have a salary of $3.25 million next season, meaning he will have earned $12.41 million in the initial two seasons of the deal. Owens and Rosenhaus maintain that Owens, who helped the Eagles to the Super Bowl last season and then ignored his doctor's advice by returning and playing in their loss to the New England Patriots, has out-performed his contract and deserves a better one.

The controversial wide receiver supported Joseph throughout last year's developments but recently fired him and hired Rosenhaus, who has more clients than any other agent in the league and is known as one of the industry's toughest negotiators. Almost immediately, Rosenhaus met with Eagles President Joe Banner last week to discuss Owens's contract . . . .

Another Rosenhaus client, Marcus Stroud, became the highest-paid defensive tackle in the league when he agreed Thursday to a five-year contract extension with the Jacksonville Jaguars that runs through the 2010 season. He now will be paid $31.5 million over the next six seasons, including the $2.1 million that he was to earn next season under the terms of his existing contract. The new deal includes about $12.2 million in bonuses . . . .

Kansas City re-signed linebacker Quinton Caver, an unrestricted free agent. . . . Cornerback Nick Harper, an unrestricted free agent, agreed to a two-year contract to return to Indianapolis. . . . Chicago signed linebacker LeVar Woods, who was released by Arizona this week. . . . Atlanta re-signed tackle Kevin Shaffer, a restricted free agent. . . . Baltimore re-signed safety Will Demps, a restricted free agent . . . .

The Jets reportedly are willing to listen to trade offers for defensive end John Abraham, their franchise player, but General Manager Terry Bradway said during a pre-draft news conference Thursday that there have been no inquiries by other teams and he expects Abraham to remain with the club . . . .

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers reportedly have spoken to the Buffalo Bills about a possible trade for tailback Travis Henry.

Henry asked the Bills to trade him after he lost the club's starting tailback job last season to Willis McGahee. There have been on-again, off-again discussions between Buffalo and Arizona about a deal that would send Henry to the Cardinals for offensive tackle L.J. Shelton.

It's not clear what the Buccaneers would surrender for Henry. But the trade, if it happens, could affect how the early part of the draft unfolds. The Buccaneers have the fifth overall selection and are well-positioned to draft one of the top three tailbacks available -- Ronnie Brown and Carnell "Cadillac" Williams of Auburn and Cedric Benson of Texas.

But if Tampa trades for Henry, it wouldn't need a tailback and that perhaps would increase the chances that the Buccaneers would trade up in the first-round order to select one of the top two quarterbacks, Cal's Aaron Rodgers or Utah's Alex Smith. Each of the teams possessing the top three picks in the draft -- the 49ers, Miami Dolphins and Browns -- seems willing, perhaps even eager, to trade down . . . .

The Dallas Cowboys named Jeff Ireland their scouting director.

Ceremonies for Lucas Scheduled

A wake is scheduled for Saturday in Macon, Ga., for Al Lucas, the former NFL defensive lineman who was fatally injured during an Arena Football League game last weekend in Los Angeles. Funeral services are to be held Monday in Macon, Lucas's home town.

The Arena League announced that a moment of silence will be held for Lucas at each of its games this weekend, and all of the league's players will wear helmet decals with Lucas's number -- 76 -- for the remainder of the season. The league renamed its Hero Award, given to players for accomplishments on and off the field, the Al Lucas Award, and the AFL Players Association set up a trust fund for Lucas's daughter.

Lucas was pronounced dead at a Los Angeles hospital Sunday, soon after suffering an apparent spinal cord injury while playing for the Los Angeles Avengers. The Los Angeles County coroner's office has not yet announced a cause of death, pending the results of further tests.

Lucas played two seasons for the Carolina Panthers.

Doctor Suspended

James Shortt, the Columbia, S.C., physician who reportedly provided steroid prescriptions to three Panthers players, has had his license suspended by the South Carolina board of medical examiners, the Charlotte Observer reported. Shortt faces an April 27 deadline if he wants to request a hearing appealing the suspension, the newspaper reported. The board reportedly cited improper testosterone prescriptions to four unnamed male patients . . . .

ESPN reported that Louisville running back Eric Shelton found out while making pre-draft visits to teams that a company used by clubs to provide background checks on draft prospects -- InfoMart -- had informed teams that he'd been convicted for assault in 1999 and charged with marijuana possession in 2001. But Shelton reportedly never had been arrested or charged with a crime, and his representatives found out upon contacting the company that it had confused Shelton with another person with the same name. Shelton's agents reportedly demanded that the company inform teams of its mistake and are considering legal action.

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