Culpepper Headed to Dolphins; Brees to Saints

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 14, 2006 2:29 PM

The Miami Dolphins agreed today to trade a draft choice to the Minnesota Vikings for quarterback Daunte Culpepper. One source said the pick that the Vikings will receive is a second-round selection.

That led free-agent quarterback Drew Brees to agree to a contract with the New Orleans Saints.

Culpepper had asked the Vikings to trade or release him, and the club had been shopping him to several teams. The Dolphins were looking to replace Gus Frerotte as their starting quarterback and were negotiating with free agent Drew Brees while deliberating with the Vikings over Culpepper.

Culpepper has been one of the league's most prolific passers in the past but is coming off a season in which he suffered a major knee injury. He also is facing three misdemeanor charges stemming from his conduct during an October boat cruise that produced allegations of lewd behavior by several Vikings players. He and the Vikings clashed during the offseason over Culpepper's reported requests that the team upgrade his contract, a move viewed by some people in the league as being a bid by Culpepper to prompt the club to trade or release him.

Brees visited the Saints and the Dolphins in recent days, and it had become clear that he would leave the San Diego Chargers for one of those two clubs. The Saints apparently made Brees the more lucrative contract proposal but Brees seemed to be leaning toward Miami and his agent, Tom Condon, was trying to get the Dolphins to improve their offer.

But today's musical chairs left Culpepper with the Dolphins and Brees replacing Aaron Brooks, who's likely to be released by the Saints, as the starter in New Orleans.

Brees threw for more than 6,700 yards over the past two seasons but the Chargers were unable to sign him to a long-term contract. Brees suffered a shoulder injury during the Chargers' season finale and underwent surgery for a torn labrum. The injury, to Brees's throwing shoulder, apparently caused concern for some clubs interested in him.

The Chargers appear prepared to go with former first-round draft choice Philip Rivers as their starter. The Culpepper-less Vikings will be left starting Brad Johnson, who played well this past season when Culpepper was hurt.

Players Approve Labor Deal

Player representatives, meeting in Hawaii with union leaders, voted unanimously to approve the labor settlement that was ratified last week by the NFL's franchise owners.

The deal had been proposed by Players Association chief Gene Upshaw, so approval by the players was a formality.

Giants Working On Secondary

The New York Giants agreed Monday to a three-year, $6 million contract with free agent cornerback R.W. McQuarters, mostly recently of the Detroit Lions. The deal includes a $2 million signing bonus. McQuarters is the second free agent cornerback signed by the Giants following the addition of Sam Madison.

The Giants also re-signed two unrestricted free agents in recent days, backup quarterback Tim Hasselbeck and kick returner Chad Morton. Hasselbeck got a three-year, $2.25 million deal and Morton re-signed for $3.85 million over four seasons. . . .

The Lions retained kick returner Eddie Drummond by signing him to a five-year, $6 million deal that includes a $2 million signing bonus. Detroit added free agent wide receiver Corey Bradford, formerly with Houston, for a four-year, $7.4 million deal. . . .

San Francisco re-signed linebacker Brandon Moore with a five-year, $8 million pact. The 49ers replaced Brandon Lloyd, who was traded to the Washington Redskins, by signing free agent wide receiver Antonio Bryant, most recently of the Cleveland Browns, to a four-year, $15 million deal that includes a $5 million signing bonus. . . .

The Dallas Cowboys agreed to a five-year, $17 million contract with free agent linebacker Akin Ayodele, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The deal contains a $5 million signing bonus. The Cowboys lost another free agent linebacker, Scott Fujita, who signed with the Saints earlier Monday. . . .

Cincinnati signed free agent safety Dexter Jackson of Tampa Bay. Jackson, who was MVP in the Bucs' Super Bowl victory over Oakland, agreed to a four-year, $7.6 million contract. . . .

Carolina signed defensive tackle Damione Lewis, formerly of St. Louis, to a two-year, $3.9 million deal that includes a $1.5 million signing bonus. . . .

Atlanta re-signed wide receiver Brian Finneran and safety Omar Lowe. . . .

New England released linebacker Chad Brown and guard Ryan Krug.

Cowboys Cut Keyshawn

Dallas released wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson today, avoiding having to pay him a $1 million roster bonus Wednesday. Johnson had 141 catches in two seasons with the Cowboys but turns 34 in July. By releasing him, the Cowboys save about $2.5 million in salary cap space.

Tough Match For Seahawks

The seven-year, $49 million contract offer sheet that guard Steve Hutchinson, the Seattle Seahawks' transition player, has signed with the Minnesota Vikings contains an unusual provision. If Hutchinson is not the highest-paid offensive lineman on his team, his entire contract becomes guaranteed.

The Seahawks, by naming Hutchinson their transition player, allowed Hutchinson to test free agency but gave themselves the right to retain him by matching any offer sheet from another club. Condon and the Vikings have made things difficult on the Seahawks, however, given that Seattle signed left tackle Walter Jones last year to a seven-year, $52.5 million deal.

Such a provision in a contract offer when a player's current team has the right to retain the player by matching the deal is known as a "poison pill" and is designed to discourage a club from matching the offer. This one appears to be creating a bitter taste indeed for the Seahawks.

Under NFL rules, the Seahawks are required to match all the "principal terms" of the Vikings' offer to retain Hutchinson. The question is whether that provision qualifies. The Seahawks could consult with the NFL Management Council, the labor negotiating arm of the league office, to try to determine that. But even following the Management Council's advice is not a sure thing, as the New York Jets found out a few years ago.

In 2003, the Redskins were in the process of conducting an offseason raid on the Jets' roster in which they signed wide receiver Laveranues Coles, guard Randy Thomas and kicker John Hall. The Redskins signed Morton, then a restricted free agent, to a five-year, $7.945 million offer sheet. The poison pill in the Redskins' offer to Morton was a clause in the contract to void the final two seasons of the deal, making it a three-year contract that would be cumbersome on his team's salary cap. The Redskins hoped the Jets wouldn't match the offer.

The Jets did match it, but only after consulting with the Management Council and being told the voidable-years clause was not a principal term that had to be matched for the club to retain Morton. So the Jets matched the other terms of the contract but not that clause. Agent Leigh Steinberg, Morton's representative, objected and the players' union filed a grievance on Morton's behalf. The case was heard by Bloch, who ruled that the Jets had improperly matched the offer and awarded Morton to the Redskins.

What the Jets should have done is matched the entire offer and then challenged the voidable-years clause before an arbitrator, or matched everything in the offer except the voidable-years clause but included a side letter with Morton's contract saying they intended to match all principal terms and were failing to match the voidable-years clause only because it was their understanding that it wasn't a principal term. If they'd done that, they might have lost the voidable-years tussle and been forced to add that to Morton's contract, but they probably wouldn't have lost Morton to the Redskins.

The Morton case gives the Seahawks a clear roadmap if they want to retain Hutchinson but don't think they should have to match every provision in the Vikings' offer. They can consult with the league office. But even if they're told they don't have to match something in the offer, they'd better put it down in writing that they intend to match all principal terms and are leaving something out only because they've been advised it's not a principal term of the offer.

Shields Reworks Deal

Kansas City guard Will Shields reworked his contract, ensuring that he will remain with the Chiefs for at least another season. There had been speculation in recent weeks that he might be released for salary cap purposes. Shields signed a four-year deal but might retire after the 2006 season. . . .

Pittsburgh re-signed backup quarterback Charlie Batch, an unrestricted free agent. . . .

Free agent linebacker Matt Chatham, formerly of the Patriots, agreed to a contract with the Jets. That reunites him with new Jets coach Eric Mangini, who was New England's defensive coordinator this past season. . . .

The Giants are expected to deliver a contract proposal today to linebacker LaVar Arrington, who was released by the Redskins and is considering a number of teams. . . . The Giants agreed to a deal with safety Quentin Harris, formerly of Arizona.

Givens to Titans

Wide receiver David Givens, who was hotly pursued on the unrestricted free agent market, left the Patriots today by agreeing to a five-year contract with Tennessee worth about $24 million, including an $8 million signing bonus.

The Titans also reached a deal with center Kevin Mawae, who'd been released by the Jets. Mawae replaces Justin Hartwig, the center the Titans lost in free agency . . . .

Free agent quarterback Jon Kitna agreed to a contract with Detroit, leaving Cincinnati to possibly compete for the Lions' starting job. The Lions also re-signed free agent defensive end Kalimba Edwards . . . .

Jacksonville agreed to a deal with offensive tackle Mike Williams, cut recently by Buffalo.

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