Unable to practice much or play at all during the preseason, Maurice Clarett will be released by Denver later this week, his agent said yesterday.

Agent Steven Feldman said Clarett, the troubled running back whom the Broncos made a surprise pick in the third round of this year's draft, will be released when the team makes its first round of cuts.

They didn't contact me, per se," Feldman said. "The kid called me and let me know they're going to let him go."

Broncos spokesman Jim Saccomano said the team didn't plan to release anybody until tomorrow.

The pending release marks a disappointing start to the NFL career of the former Ohio State running back, who missed two years of football after leading the Buckeyes to the national title.

Most thought he was a low draft pick, if a draft pick at all, and the Broncos surprised many by making him the final selection on the first day of the draft.

* BEARS: Running back Cedric Benson ended his 36-day holdout, agreeing to a five-year contract.

Benson, the No. 4 overall pick in this year's draft, was the last remaining first-round pick to sign. Terms were not available but reports said the Bears had offered a contract that contained $17 million in guaranteed money to the former Texas star. . . .

Rookie Kyle Orton was named Chicago's starting quarterback and the team demoted Chad Hutchinson out of the playing rotation.

Orton's strong performance in Friday's 16-12 win over Buffalo, when he led an 81-yard scoring drive, and Hutchinson's second straight shaky outing -- 3-for-14 passing, two interceptions and three sacks -- prompted Coach Lovie Smith to make the move.

Smith said recently signed veteran Jeff Blake is now the backup and Kurt Kittner is number three.

The Bears end their preseason schedule Thursday at home against Cleveland and will open regular season play Sept. 11 at Washington.

Orton, who played at Purdue, was a fourth-round draft pick. He slipped in the draft after he was slowed by a hip injury in his senior season.

* SAINTS: New Orleans moved practice to San Jose State University in California as Hurricane Katrina, a storm with 175-mph winds, approached Louisiana.

The team, which has a preseason game against the Raiders on Sept. 1, decided to move practices after residents were ordered to evacuate New Orleans yesterday. The Saints will practice for three days at the California campus before playing in Oakland.

* EAGLES: Terrell Owens was excused from attending the team's charity carnival because of a groin injury. Left tackle Tra Thomas also was excused because he has back spasms.

Owens missed several practices in training camp after injuring his left groin. However, he was exiled for a week after a heated dispute with Coach Andy Reid in which part of the argument stemmed from Owens's refusal to sign autographs with the rest of the receivers following a practice at Lehigh University.

* JAGUARS: Troy Edwards, a onetime first-round pick, was released by Jacksonville after he was unable to move ahead of rookie wide receivers Matt Jones and Chad Owens.

Edwards, the team's second-leading receiver with 50 catches for 533 yards last year, was displeased with his reduced role this season. He voiced his angst after Thursday's preseason game against Atlanta, saying: "You can see what's going on. It's obvious."

* PANTHERS: Rod Rutherford, who was battling for Carolina's third-string quarterback position, was one of 11 players released by the team.

Also released was rookie wide receiver Taylor Stubblefield, who went undrafted despite ending his career at Purdue as the NCAA's all-time leader in receptions.