The Tennessee Titans may have done Darryll Lewis a favor yesterday. They cut the veteran defensive back, making him one of the NFL's most sought-after players, at least for a few days.

Lewis, who has 25 interceptions over the last five years, was cut because he lost his starting job and the $2 million he's due to make is too much to pay a nickel back. His agent said six teams immediately called.

Yesterday was cutdown day in the NFL, with most teams getting down to the 53-man limit by disposing of rookies and free agents who served as practice players.

The Denver Broncos made a notable technical cut--John Elway, who officially retired in April but was kept on the roster as insurance if he changed his mind. And San Diego kept Ryan Leaf, out with a shoulder injury, on the roster instead of placing him on injured reserve.

Lewis, a nine-year veteran, was beaten out for the starting job by second-year player Samari Rolle and then cut.

Lewis's agent, Ken Zuckerman, said he had received calls from San Francisco, Dallas, San Diego, the New York Jets, Carolina and Buffalo as soon as they saw Lewis's name on the waiver wire. He said his client would sign with the team that gave him the best chance to be a starter.

"I can't be mad," Lewis said. "I'm not the first guy to go through this."

Among the other veterans released were: punter Louie Aguiar of Kansas City; linebacker James Francis, oft-injured offensive tackle Kevin Sargent and center Rod Payne, a third-round draft pick in 1997, by Cincinnati; eight-year running back Bernie Parmalee by Miami; and 38-year-old long snapper Mike Morris by Minnesota, which also cut tight end Eric Moss, Randy's older brother.

Leaf, meanwhile, who may not be able to play until November after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder, could have been put on injured reserve, which would have required him to miss the season. Instead, the Chargers cut Craig Whelihan, who started last year when Leaf was benched, and will start the season with veterans Jim Harbaugh and Erik Kramer.

"It feels like I got drafted again," said Leaf, who had monumental problems both on and off the field after being the second overall pick in the 1998 draft. "Now we get the perfect situation where I come into and you've got the two veteran quarterbacks there."

* CHIEFS: Kansas City cut former Howard University quarterback Ted White, opting for veteran Todd Collins in the third-string role behind Elvis Grbac and Warren Moon.

* RAIDERS: Running back Rashaan Salaam, the 1994 Heisman Trophy winner, was among 17 players cut. Tyrone Wheatley was more productive and wound up with a spot on the Raiders' roster.

* SEAHAWKS: Seattle placed holdout wide receiver Joey Galloway on the reserve-did not report list. Galloway, who has held out all of training camp, can be activated when his holdout ends.

The team also announced the retirement of Pro Bowl offensive tackle Howard Ballard, a 12-year veteran.

CAPTION: Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf was kept on team's roster instead of being placed on injured reserve.