|Isaac Bruce and Lorenzo Neal leaving their teams on the eve of free agency|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 28 February 2008 19:02|
On the eve of free agency, the St. Louis Rams cut longtime star receiver Bruce, while the San Diego Chargers released All-Pro fullback Neal. Then Pro Bowl tackle Adams re-signed with Dallas and, on Thursday night, Bruschi agreed to a multiyear deal in New England.
Bruce, the last player remaining from the Rams' 1995 move from Los Angeles, was a second-round draft pick in 1994. The 35-year-old wideout is among the NFL career leaders with 942 receptions for 14,109 yards and 84 touchdowns. He was the Rams' second leading receiver last season with 55 catches for 733 yards and four TDs.
``It's a tough choice for the franchise,'' coach Scott Linehan said on the team's Web site. ``It's like anything else. We make decisions as a franchise on the business side and that's the part that makes it the most difficult.''
Linehan said the ``possibility is always open'' for Bruce to re-sign with the Rams, who also cut backup quarterback Gus Frerotte.
Neal, 37, was among three veterans released by the Chargers, who also parted with safety Marlon McCree and right tackle Shane Olivea. General manager A.J. Smith said all three requested their release so they can quickly jump into free agency.
Olivea had four years left on his contract while McCree and Neal each had three years remaining.
Neal has been with six NFL teams in 15 pro seasons and, for most of those years, blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher. He was instrumental in LaDainian Tomlinson's record-setting 2006 season.
A person within the league, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bruschi is expected to sign his deal Friday.
Bruschi, who suffered a stroke after the 2004 season and returned midway through the next schedule, started every game this past season. But it had been uncertain if the 34-year-old Bruschi would return after the Patriots lost 17-14 to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
Adams signed what the team called a long-term agreement that likely guarantees he will finish his career in Dallas.
``I'm just really happy to be here,'' Adams said on the team's Web site. Asked if he considered leaving Dallas, he added, ``Nope. Not at all.''
Adams joined the Cowboys as a second-round pick in 1998. He and linebacker Greg Ellis are the team's longest-tenured players.
Dallas also moved to keep three restricted free agents, putting tenders on Pro Bowl running back Marion Barber ($2.56 million, the highest possible), defensive end Chris Canty ($2.017 million), and guard Joe Berger ($927,000).
Running back Tyson Thompson, who lost his job as a kick returner late in the season, was not tendered, freeing him to sign wherever he wants.
Derek Anderson, the 24-year-old Cleveland quarterback who stepped in as a starter after the first game and led the Browns to a 10-6 record last season, was tendered a one-year offer for $2.5 million.
But Browns general manager Phil Savage said if another team makes the restricted free agent a better offer, Cleveland is unlikely to match it.
Cleveland also has made a $20 million, three-year offer with $10 million guaranteed to Anderson. But having traded away this year's first-round pick to take Brady Quinn in last year's draft, the Browns apparently feel Quinn remains their quarterback of the future.
If Anderson does move, Cleveland would get first- and third-round choices for him.
``If Derek wants to be a Brown and really wants to stay here in Cleveland and play with the players that are on our team, then he can do that rather easily,'' Savage said. ``We can look in the mirror and know we put a strong offer out there.
``But he's earned the right to get to this point because of his play last year. We're in a good situation either way.''
Another quarterback, Alex Smith got a vote of confidence from San Francisco. The 49ers exercised a multimillion-dollar buyback clause in the former No. 1 draft pick's contract that essentially extends his deal through 2010.
Smith, who floundered through injuries and a public argument with coach Mike Nolan last season, will compete with Shaun Hill for the starting job. But general manager Scot McCloughan showed the 49ers' feelings about him by overriding language in Smith's contract that could have allowed him to become a free agent after next season.
``It just shows that we believe in him to be our guy,'' McCloughan said. ``He and Shaun are going to go out there and compete, and the winner of that is going to be a good quarterback for us.''
Smith has started 30 games in his three seasons with San Francisco, passing for 4,679 yards, 19 touchdowns and 31 interceptions while getting sacked 81 times.
Those moves came as other teams maneuvered their rosters to get ready for the start of free agency at 12:01 a.m. Also released was defensive end Jevon Kearse by the Eagles.
Kearse was cut after four mostly disappointing and injury-plagued seasons with the Eagles, who signed him to a $66 million, eight-year deal in 2004 that at the time made him the highest-paid defensive end in NFL history.
He ended up being benched last season and had only 3 1/2 sacks in 14 games after missing most of 2006 with a knee injury. In fact, his career high in sacks, 14 1/2, came in 1999, his rookie season with Tennessee, and his only other double-figure sacks years were his second and third. He had 22 in his four seasons in Philadelphia.
In other moves:
-Baltimore cut 33-year-old Mike Flynn, one of the last remaining cornerstones of its Super Bowl championship team of eight years ago. His release will save the Ravens $2 million against the league's $116 million salary cap.
-Veteran linebacker Zach Thomas officially joined Dallas, with whom he signed a one-year $3.3 million deal last week after being released by Miami.
-Wide receiver David Givens was released by Tennessee. The former New England starter, who signed a five-year $24 million deal in 2006, played only five games that year before suffering a serious knee injury and didn't play at all in 2007. The team also tendered one-year offers to seven restricted free agents, including All-Pro kicker Rob Bironas, tight end Bo Scaife and starting right tackle David Stewart.
-Buffalo released cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas, who missed the last seven games last season with a groin injury. An eight-year veteran, he started three games last season.
- Pittsburgh made one-year contract offers to wide receiver Nate Washington and guard Chris Kemoeatu, reportedly for more than $1.4 million each, and to long snapper Greg Warren and offensive lineman Trai Essex, reportedly for just over $900,000 each.
- Houston receiver and kick returner Andre' Davis agreed to a multiyear contract. Davis emerged as one of Houston's top receivers last season when Andre Johnson missed seven games with a knee sprain. Davis finished with 33 catches for 583 yards and three touchdowns. He also returned three kickoffs for touchdowns last season, including two in Houston's season finale against Jacksonville.