Moss a Free Agent After Pats Withhold Franchise Tag

Friday, February 22, 2008

The New England Patriots did not use their franchise player tag on Randy Moss by yesterday's deadline, allowing the record-setting wide receiver to hit the unrestricted free agent market on Feb. 29.

The Patriots still can re-sign Moss, who set an NFL record during the just-completed season with 23 touchdown catches.

Moss agreed to rework his contract as part of last spring's trade that sent him from the Oakland Raiders to the Patriots. He reduced his salary but left himself eligible to be a free agent following the season. Under NFL rules, the Patriots cannot re-sign Moss before Feb. 29 because his contract cannot be reworked for a second time in the same league year.

The team could have used its franchise player designation on Moss and given itself the right to retain him by matching any contract offer from another club in free agency, plus the right to receive two first-round draft picks from Moss's new team as compensation if the Patriots allowed him to depart. Such a move would have given Moss a salary of $7.848 million next season, the average of the five highest-paid wideouts in the league. But the Patriots did not use the tag on Moss by the deadline.

The Dallas Cowboys placed their franchise player tag on safety Ken Hamlin, who will receive a salary of $4.396 million next season if he remains the franchise player.

Grievance Filed by NFLPA

The NFL Players Association filed a grievance against the league's team owners, accusing them of improper collusion for reducing each franchise's debt ceiling by 20 percent.

The case is to be heard by Stephen Burbank, a University of Pennsylvania law professor who serves as the NFL's special master, putting him in charge of resolving disputes between the league and players' union arising from their collective bargaining agreement.

The union contends the league is attempting to reduce the teams' spending on player salaries in what could be a season without a salary cap in 2010 if the owners exercise a reopener clause in the labor deal.

"It's no coincidence that this measure has a deadline which comes just before the 2010 league year, when there would be no cap," union chief Gene Upshaw said in a written statement. "It makes no sense to reduce the debt limit at a time when league revenues are increasing from approximately $7 billion to $9 billion, and we can only conclude that the owners did this to hurt the players."

Byner to Interview

Former Washington Redskins running backs coach Earnest Byner is scheduled to interview with the Tennessee Titans on Friday. The Titans are seeking a running backs coach to replace Sherman Smith, now the Redskins' offensive coordinator. . . . The New York Giants haven't completed a contract extension with Tom Coughlin, their Super Bowl-winning coach. But co-owner John Mara said yesterday that the deal will be done soon. "This is going to get done," Mara said. "It's a matter of both sides having time to complete it." . . . Tailback Jamal Lewis agreed to a three-year contract to remain with the Cleveland Browns. . . . The Carolina Panthers released tailback DeShaun Foster.

-- Mark Maske

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