By Arnie Stapleton
AP Sports Writer
04/06/2002 05:10 PM




In an unusual move, the Green Bay Packers are allowing wide receiver Antonio Freeman to speak with other teams about a trade, his agent said Saturday.

In a letter dated April 2, the Packers gave Freeman and his agent, Joel Segal, permission for the seventh-year pro to visit other clubs, undergo physical exams and talk about contract requirements.

``This provides us with the opportunity to pursue other avenues while keeping lines of communication open with the Packers,'' Segal said.

Packers coach Mike Sherman and chief negotiator Andrew Brandt didn't immediately return phone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Sherman has said he would like to keep Freeman, but not at his $4.3 million salary next season.

Last month, Freeman, who is under contract through 2005, said he felt he had played his last game for the Packers after they traded for receiver Terry Glenn, who is hoping to resurrect his career after a troubling stay in New England.

``You don't go from a No. 1 to a No. 2 -- if you're going to do that, you move to another team,'' Freeman said.

Giving Freeman permission to seek a trade could prove academic. The Packers most likely won't be able to deal him before June 1 because of salary cap constraints. However, it could be the first step in Freeman's departure from Green Bay, where he is quarterback Brett Favre's favorite target.

If he refuses to restructure his contract, he will probably be waived after June 1, when the Packers would take a lighter blow against their 2002 cap.

Freeman's salary cap number for next season is $5.728 million, including a $1.428 million charge for the prorated portion of the $10 million bonus he signed as part of a seven-year, $42 million contract in 1999.

His production has slipped every year since then. Last season, his 52 receptions for 818 yards and six touchdowns marked his lowest output since his rookie season in 1995.

Still, he is by far the Packers' best route-runner and he and Favre have formed the most prolific active touchdown tandem in the NFL, having connected for 57 TDs. Also, Freeman was Green Bay's best receiver in the postseason last year, catching 13 passes for 138 yards and three touchdowns.

The Packers already have lost starter Bill Schroeder to Detroit and backup Corey Bradford to Houston via free agency.