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Pasquarelli discusses Delhomme's new contract, among other things

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  • Pasquarelli discusses Delhomme's new contract, among other things

    Delhomme's Pact Could Affect Couch, Warner
    By Len Pasquarelli

    It is called lagniappe, an old Cajun word that roughly translates into "a little bit extra," and a term with which Carolina Panthers quarterback and dyed-in-the-gumbo Louisiana native Jake Delhomme was familiar, long before he agreed Thursday morning to his pricey new five-year contract extension.

    Rewarding their emerging star with a contract that reportedly could be worth as much as $38 million, a deal criticized in some NFL precincts because there remains a core group of skeptics anxious to see if Delhomme was just a one-year wonder, certainly represented a heaping helping of lagniappe ladled out by Panthers management. No matter where one sides in the debate, though, the contract inarguably was aimed at providing security for both parties to the extension.

    Good news, Carolina management hopes, for a franchise now suddenly resurrected and seeking to sustain newfound success and to create stability. And absolutely great news for an itinerant quarterback whose league resume included just two regular-season starts before 2003.

    But bad news -- very bad news, in fact, it says here -- for signal-callers such as Tim Couch, Kurt Warner and Kordell Stewart. How do we draw a correlation between Delhomme's contract and the fortunes of those veteran quarterbacks?

    Because players like Couch have recently been forced into a kind of wait-until-next-year mindset, one in which they sign short-term deals in the hopes of finding a far more appealing employment market next March, when they will be free agents and perhaps have a chance to pursue a starting job. And contracts like the one Delhomme signed, in the big picture, mean there aren't going to be as many vacant starting spots in the NFL as some observers suggest there might be.

    It is, to be sure, one of the NFL's most notable dichotomies. Everyone focuses closely on the movement of quarterbacks in the league every spring, and this year was no different, as 19 quarterbacks had switched franchises at last count. But in a league where the best-kept secret appears to be the number of teams that have cemented their starters in place over the last few years, many of them with deals of astonishing length, few quarterbacks who changed addresses actually upgraded their status.

    Here's a fact-and-fiction proposition: It's a fact that the 32 quarterbacks projected to be starters in 2004 have an average of 4.4 more seasons remaining on their current contracts, meaning they are locked in through 2007. So it is fiction to assume that a slew of No. 1 spots will become available next spring, or even the offseason after that.

    The late-blooming Delhomme is the latest beneficiary of a trend in which teams have sought to reverse the quarterback carousel and put a stop to the calliope tune that annually accompanies the game of musical chairs at the position.

    Just since the end of last season, there have been 10 quarterbacks who signed new contracts that either make them starters or figure to extend their tenures atop the depth charts. And with Chad Pennington of the New York Jets and Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck entering the final year of their respective deals, there are more megacontracts coming in the not too distant future. Bank on the likelihood that, within the ensuing nine months, Pennington will sign a deal that features the second-largest signing bonus in NFL history, trailing only the $34.5 million the Indianapolis Colts paid Peyton Manning up front.

    Even accounting for the "voidable" years in current quarterback contracts, the average NFL starter still has 4.1 seasons left on his current deal. Go one step further and subtract the "dummy" years on contracts, seasons in which the salaries are so inflated that the club will be forced to either restructure the contract or release the quarterback, and the average is still about 3½ remaining seasons.

    And chew on these numbers: There are a dozen quarterbacks with at least five seasons remaining on current deals and 11 of them have six or more seasons left on contracts. So while the widespread perception is that the quarterback position is again in flux, one might insist rather convincingly that the future offers a kind of golden age of stability at the game's most critical spot.

    Which begs the question of where guys like Couch -- who is just 26 years old and who, we feel, can still be a big-time quarterback if he lands in the right situation -- are going to find their next opportunity to regain their lost starter's status?

    Said one prominent agent who recently dealt with a Couch-type situation: "You have to do a little sweet-talking, do some tap-dancing, paint some blue sky. Because, the truth is, while you're telling (your client) it's OK to take a step back in hopes of moving forward again next year, sometimes your guy just gets stuck in neutral. As with everything in the NFL, this is cyclical, but this particular cycle doesn't (bode) well for guys looking to get back in the starter's saddle next year. I mean, take a look around, and try to figure out where the opportunities are going to be."

    It certainly doesn't appear there will be many.

    Only four current starters are entering the final year of their contracts. Pennington and Hasselbeck will get new deals before 2005 or their teams will use the "franchise" marker to keep them around. Drew Brees of San Diego is in the final season of his original NFL contract but the Chargers, with first-round pick Philip Rivers onboard, already have his successor in line. Arizona's Josh McCown, the final starter with just one year left, will only be eligible for restricted free agency next spring, so the Cardinals can retain him with a qualifying offer.

    The smart money says that Brett Favre plays two more seasons in Green Bay. The newly reworked contract that Buffalo's Drew Bledsoe signed this spring probably extends his shelf-life two more years. Even if he wins the starting job for 2004, Warner could be gone from the New York Giants by next spring, but that's only because the Eli Manning era will be set to dawn. Kerry Collins is already in the on-deck circle to succeed Rich Gannon in Oakland, whether it is this season or next. The Pittsburgh Steelers will count on Ben Roethlisberger, the first quarterback the franchise has selected in the first round in a quarter-century, to supplant Tommy Maddox in 2005 or 2006.

    And there is a subset of "franchise" quarterbacks -- Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, Byron Leftwich, David Carr, Steve McNair, Daunte Culpepper and more -- who aren't going anywhere for a long time.

    So where might a guy like Couch, who signed a one-year, $1.25 million contract with the Packers, locate a potential starting spot in 2005? Maybe Miami, Dallas, San Francisco, Arizona or Tampa Bay, depending on what transpires in those cities this season. But the prospects of a starting opportunity could be surprisingly limited.

    That's what long-term deals like the one signed by Delhomme, with teams being very proactive now in locking up quarterbacks once they have identified their guy, have done to the futures market. That is also why the ever-pragmatic Couch has left open the chance he could extend his contract in Green Bay and wait for Favre to decide that it's time to tend to the mowing chores full-time at his Hattiesburg, Miss., home.

    Looking down the road at the market, well, there's not much lagniappe out there for former starters who have signed short-term deals on the assumption that things will get better. On the plus side, if you're Couch and you've for sufficient stomach lining, the beer and brats can quickly become an acquired taste.

    First ...

    On the aforementioned Pennington: The guess here is that the Jets quarterback might not have a deal consummated until sometime after the 2004 season, in advance of the February date for teams to declare their "franchise" players. Pennington has been very clear in his discussions with agents Tom Condon and Ken Kremer of IMG Football that he does not want negotiations to be a distraction to him or his teammates. Since there really hasn't been any substantive bargaining yet, and since the money involved in the deal will be very large, this is a contract that could take some time. Lots of players say they won't negotiate once the season begins, but word is that Pennington is one who will adhere to that condition, so there is a somewhat definitive timeframe during which a deal can be struck. That's why, as was the case with Peyton Manning, the odds are that there won't be a Pennington contract until just before "franchise" designation day. Pennington won't get the $34.5 million signing bonus that Manning, a stablemate in the IMG family, received from the Colts. But don't start planning any telethons, since the up front money for the Jets star is apt to be in the $20 million-$25 million range.

    So you didn't really think that a lightning-rod coach like Dennis Green was going to take over a franchise that has averaged exactly five victories per year since '99 and not shake up the Arizona Cardinals, did you? Of course not. But what transpired Thursday, when Green announced his starting lineup for training camp following the Cardinals' last organized workout of the offseason, was more along the lines of a seismic event than a mere tweaking. There are a dozen changes, six on each side of the ball, between the camp lineup for Green's first season and the one that opened the 2003 regular campaign. Most startling of Green's revelations -- he lined up his squad, called out individual names, and then informed the cited players of their status atop the depth chart -- was that venerable Emmitt Smith will go to camp as the No. 1 tailback. But there were other shockers, too, like the seemingly permanent move of former right guard Leonard Davis to left tackle, the position he played in college, and a spot once owned by another former Cardinals' first-rounder, L.J. Shelton. A few weeks ago, when Green demoted Shelton, the consensus was that the coach was simply attempting to motivate the five-year veteran. Now, it appears, Shelton could be trade bait. There are two rookies, first-round wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald of Pitt and third-round defensive tackle Darnell Dockett of Florida State, in the lineup. And Green has replaced free safety Dexter Jackson, the most valuable player in Super Bowl XXXVII and arguably the Cards' highest-profile veteran acquisition of 2003, with youngster Quentin Harris, whose NFL resume includes only one start. There are some mitigating circumstances at that position, since Jackson was limited this spring by a back injury, but Green isn't one for excuses. He isn't one to start tinkering, either, with his lineup once he gets to camp. Unlike many coaches, Green places a big emphasis on earning a No. 1 spot in the spring, not in the summer. "This is the staring lineup," he told his team on Thursday morning. "You have to lose your job now." By the way, all of the critics who pointed out that the needy Cardinals have used three choices in the first two rounds of the last two drafts to take wide receivers, take note: All three -- Anquan Boldin, Bryant Johnson and Fitzgerald -- are starters in Arizona's three-wideout base offense.

    Head coach Marvin Lewis is offering only non sequiturs, and agent Neil Schwartz is vacationing in the Orient with his family, so no one is really addressing head-on what happened with the contract agreement between the Cincinnati Bengals and free agent defensive tackle Daryl Gardener. It certainly appears, however, that Gardener's chronic back problems have scuttled the deal for now, and probably for good. Make no mistake, the two sides had an agreement in principle on a four-year, incentive-laden contract that could have earned Gardener about $9.3 million. Certainly a Bengals defense that ranked No. 25 versus the run in 2003 could have used Gardener, a big, tough, space-eater when he is healthy. But credit Cincinnati for doing its medical due diligence on a back that has affected Gardener for years. If there is one quibble, and it's a small one, with the Bengals, it is this: Perhaps the club should have re-signed veteran Glen Steele, an unrestricted free agent, as an insurance policy. Steele was one of Cincinnati's most productive defenders per snap and ended up signing instead with the New York Giants on a minimum-salary, one-year contract. He might have been worth a $535,000 investment to keep around. The Bengals have some improving youngsters behind the starting defensive tackles tandem of John Thornton and Tony Williams but virtually no experienced depth.

    Buffalo general manager Tom Donahoe is taking a first-to-the-table approach in his negotiations with a trio of Bills veterans who can become unrestricted free agents after this season. Donahoe has essentially told the agents and the players as well -- offensive tackle Jonas Jennings, defensive end Aaron Schobel and defensive tackle Pat Williams -- that there is only enough room in the cap to sign one to an extension before the season starts. The Bills recouped about $4 million when quarterback Drew Bledsoe reworked his contract and that's enough wiggle room for one veteran deal and to sign the club's draft picks. Whoever reaches for the dangling carrot first gets the veteran money. Once camp opens on July 31, Donahoe has reiterated, negotiations are off. "It's not something that is going to drag through the summer," he said. "Either they're interested or they're not."

    Oakland second-year wide receiver Doug Gabriel, a 2003 fifth-rounder who caught just one pass for 17 yards as a rookie, was touted here five weeks ago and now the buzz about the former Central Florida standout is beginning to escalate. Gabriel is a physical receiver with just modest speed, but runs nice routes, and could be a pretty nifty complement to the speedy Jerry Porter in the offense being installed by Norv Turner. It won't be much of a surprise to the folks who have seen Gabriel and Porter this spring if the two begin the season as the Raiders' starters. That would push Jerry Rice and Tim Brown into backup roles and, since neither graybeard plays special teams, it might be difficult to keep both future Hall of Fame members around, even at their modest salary cap numbers.

    During this (much welcomed) lag time in the NFL schedule, any story of even minute significance merits a headline and closer than usual inspection, it seems. So when the New England Patriots signed Tedy Bruschi to a new, three-year, $8.1 million contract extension earlier this week, we scurried for some statistics to pad out the story. Most interesting was that the eight-year veteran linebacker had 16 passes defensed in 2003. If that doesn't seem like a ton of deflections for a linebacker, especially a guy who plays on the inside in a 3-4 scheme, consider this: There were only 14 defensive backs in the NFL who had more passes defensed than did Bruschi last season. Yeah, we know, the "passes defensed" category is one of those esoteric numbers, with the statistic not yet officially recognized by the league, one in which the criteria varies from team to team. But no matter the method used by Pats coaches to determine a pass defensed, Bruschi certainly was an active guy last season. Then again, his 16 pass deflections are still four fewer than Washington Redskins star LaVar Arrington posted in '03. There were just four defensive backs -- Ty Law of New England (23), Houston's Marcus Coleman (23), the Pats' Tyrone Poole (21) and Fred Thomas of New Orleans (21) -- credited with more passes defensed than Arrington had.

    Speaking of passes defensed, here's a name to file away for when the '04 season starts: Cornerback Lenny Walls had 20 passes defensed in 2003, one of only eight secondary players in the NFL with that many deflections, and the Denver Broncos two-year veteran played exceedingly well in his first season as a starter. Word is Walls has been terrific this spring and will be the starter opposite Champ Bailey this fall. Ironic that, after the Broncos basically wasted first-round picks on the now-departed Deltha O'Neal (2000) and Willie Middlebrooks (2001), the team would unearth a starter who joined the club as an undrafted college free agent in 2002. In a league desperate for bigger corners, Walls is 6-feet-4 and 192 pounds, runs well and plays aggressively. He could be a real breakout player in 2004 because, with Bailey on the other side of the field, Walls is going to see a lot of balls thrown at him and have the opportunity to make a ton of plays. By the way, the Broncos are paying Walls the third-year veteran minimum salary of $380,000 for '04. Denver better enjoy getting Walls on the cheap while it can, because he recently retained Drew Rosenhaus as his new agent, and that will eventually raise the ante in and of itself.

    It might surprise some people to know that Miami Dolphins defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, who has garnered plenty of publicity this spring, isn't the only restricted free agent leaguewide who has yet to sign his qualifying offer. As of Thursday evening there was one other restricted free agent, Tennessee Titans tight end Shad Meier, who hadn't re-upped. The reason: The Titans want Meier to sign a deal that provides them an option year in 2005. The language would be similar to the deal signed last week by Titans wide receiver and restricted free agent Eddie Berlin. In that deal, Berlin agreed to a second year on the contract, at $600,000, and with $300,000 of that guaranteed. Meier, a key player for the Titans, since they use two-tight end formations so frequently and Frank Wycheck has retired, would prefer to sign just the qualifying offer of $628,000 for 2004 and then be eligible for unrestricted free agency, no strings attached, next spring.

    The addition of veteran corner Dale Carter has nudged swing man Corey Fuller to safety in Baltimore mini-camps. Fuller won't move back outside unless there is an emergency, or perhaps if "franchise" corner Chris McAlister, the team's "franchise" designee, is not in camp. The Ravens, by the way, have moved former wide receiver Javin Hunter to cornerback in an effort to maybe salvage his career. Hunter showed promise as a wideout in 2002, but then ruptured his Achilles tendon last summer, and missed the entire 2003 season. The transformation to defense is a long shot, but Hunter is such a solid athlete that Baltimore staffers figured it was worth taking a look at him there.

    In his first appearance on a field since his 2000 rookie campaign, former Jacksonville Jaguars first-round wide receiver R. Jay Soward, suspended for the past three seasons for repeat violations of the NFL substance abuse policy, authored a 56-yard touchdown catch for the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL on Tuesday night. The former Southern California star has virtually fallen off the face of the NFL universe but is still on the radar screen of NCAA investigators. Seems that even six years after he left college, the NCAA is poking around some West Coast player agents to see which of them might have fronted a $5,000 bank loan that Soward allegedly has not repaid.

    A sincere mea culpa to Philadelphia Eagles rookie cornerback and third-round draft choice Matt Ware. Last week in this spot, commenting on the Eagles' very young cornerback corps, we noted that sixth-rounder Dexter Wynn of Colorado State had been the better of the two rookie cover guys. Well, that couldn't help but be the case, since NFL rules had precluded Ware from practicing with the Eagles until his classes at UCLA ended. So, yeah, Wynn was the better of the two, by default. And by our fault, Ware absorbed a hit he shouldn't have taken. One of the few big corners in this year's draft, Ware has a promising future, and we certainly didn't want to suggest otherwise. He will need a crash course, though, given the mini-camp time he missed this spring.

    Punts: The Patriots, with no experienced backup behind Tom Brady, recently phoned Neil O'Donnell to see if he might be pried out of retirement. As was the case with an offer from the New York Giants, to serve as Eli Manning's tutor for a year, O'Donnell declined the invitation. … Tight end Mikhael Ricks, released by Detroit early this week, has generated solid interest in free agency. Still a very good receiver, and with enough speed even at age 29 to get deep up the middle, Ricks has visited with Green Bay and New York Jets executives. Washington initially indicated some interest but seems to have backed off a bit. … After announcing that the 2003 season would be his last hurrah, Raiders right offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy is having second thoughts about retiring. It's still believed, though, that Big Linc will listen to his injury-wracked body and call it quits. … It isn't expected to be a major problem for the Chicago Bears, but they do find themselves in an unusual situation with first-round pick Tommie Harris, and it will take some dialogue to unravel the thing. It seems that, while the Bears were "on the clock" in the first round of the draft, they came to an agreement with Harris' agent, Kennard McGuire, on some elements of a contract for the former Oklahoma star defender. The only problem is, Harris recently switched agents, and is now represented by Eugene Parker. It remains to be seen if Parker complies with the components to which his predecessor agreed on draft day. … Tampa Bay defensive lineman Ellis Wyms will enter a pretrial intervention program for an April incident in which he is alleged to have kicked in the door of a limousine he had chartered for the evening. Wyms will pay for damages, about $1,400, and the charges will be expunged from his record.

    The last word: "When I see guys huddling up after the game, to pray, that's what scares me about the game. I'm a Baptist, but I'm also a quarterback killer, and I ain't praying with you. But I will give you 30 seconds to ask your Lord and master to keep me from killing you." -- Hall of Fame defensive end "Deacon" Jones on what aspect of the modern game most upsets him.

    Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for

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    By PFW staff
    March 3, 2005

    The Cowboys not only snatched up DT Jason Ferguson, a sign that the team intends to run the 3-4 defense at least part time this season, but they also agreed to a five-year, $25 million deal for CB Anthony Henry, a rising star in some scouts’ eyes. The deal included an $11 million signing bonus. Right cornerback was a perpetual problem spot last season, and the team now has a legitimate starting pair with former No. 1 pick Terence Newman and Henry. The Cowboys now can turn their attention to Packers OG Marco Rivera, who would upgrade an offensive line in Dallas that Bill Parcells was disappointed in last season.

    The Giants made a bold move Wednesday, signing Redskins MLB Antonio Pierce to a six-year, $26 million deal once they realized that Steelers LB Kendrell Bell was out of their price range. Pierce was a full-time starter for only this past season, but Redskins observers believe Pierce has a bright future. He collected 110 tackles, one sack and two interceptions in 16 games last season and was part of a Redskins defense that ranked in the top five in several categories. Bell, who became the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2001 under current Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis when the two were in Pittsburgh together, is seen as a better pass rusher than Pierce, but injury concerns also scared off the Giants. The team now has a strong LB unit with Pierce, Carlos Emmons, Barrett Green, Nick Greisen and Kevin Lewis, last year’s starting middle linebacker who did a respectable job but is better-suited for part-time and special-teams duty.

    The Eagles are on the verge of losing MLB Jeremiah Trotter, who was in Kansas City last night and poised to sign what is believed to be a long-term deal with the Chiefs. The Eagles did not want to spend too much money in retaining their Pro Bowl linebacker and especially didn’t want to be on the books for too many years with a player who turned 28 during the playoffs this year. Team sources have indicated in the past that it views its linebackers as interchangeable, and as much as the club would have liked to retain Trotter, it will not view this as a big blow. Good news, meanwhile, came in the limited form of two of its own free agents returning: RB Correll Buckhalter and DE Hugh Douglas. The coaching staff respects the hard work of Buckhalter, who has missed most of the past two seasons with injuries but was signed to a two-year deal. He likely will replace Dorsey Levens as the short-yardage and chain-moving runner to complement Brian Westbrook. Douglas, who signed a one-year pact, could play a limited role or a significant one, depending on whether free agent Derrick Burgess returns and what happens with rehabbing DE N.D. Kalu. Douglas is a popular figure in the Eagles’ locker room.

    -03-03-2005, 02:11 PM
  • RamWraith
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    Howard Balzer writes for Sports Weekly, email him at [email protected]

    Around several NFL precincts this summer, it could very well be considered the summer of the Postons.
    Rather than talking about possible Super Bowls, who's looking good in training camp and just simple football talk, contract negotiations promise to take center stage.

    With July 15 here and the opening of camps within the next two weeks, fans will be reading way too much about contract issues but most notably those involving agents Carl and Kevin Poston in ...

    • Cleveland, Jacksonville and Carolina, where they represent tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., the seventh overall selection in April's draft, as well as wide receiver Reggie Williams (ninth overall) and cornerback Chris Gamble (28th overall);

    • Oakland, St. Louis and San Francisco, where three of the league's five unsigned franchise players play: cornerback Charles Woodson, tackle Orlando Pace and linebacker Julian Peterson. All have the Postons as their agent;

    • Washington, where a grievance is expected to be heard in August regarding a $6.5 million roster bonus allegedly not included by the Redskins last December in a renegotiated contract for linebacker LaVar Arrington. Yes, Arrington is also represented by Carl Poston.

    The Winslow contract should be the least difficult, along with Williams and Gamble, considering that first-round picks are slotted according to where they are selected in the round. The Postons might try to claim that Winslow was rated No. 1 on some team's draft boards, but that argument is essentially one-sided. First, he wasn't picked No. 1, and second, when was the last time we heard an agent say he would accept less for a player because he was selected higher than expected? Next question.

    Where many of the contract stalemates occur is on a player's second contract and when that player has excelled at a high level. That's where the Postons' demands enter the stratosphere and make it near impossible for a team to negotiate.

    After the Rams received a $71 million proposal for Pace in March that included a $27 million signing bonus and another $7 million in guaranteed money (almost as much guaranteed money as the Colts gave quarterback Peyton Manning), president of football operations Jay Zygmunt said: "It's just a waste of time dealing with him (Carl). It makes no sense. Anyone can ask for anything; that's easy to do. Why not ask for a billion dollars? It wouldn't matter."

    Zygmunt noted how often the situations put the player at odds with the team.

    Look no further than the relationship between cornerback Ty Law, another Poston client, and the Patriots during the offseason.

    When either of the Postons talk to the media, which is rare (and they did not return a phone call...
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  • txramsfan
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    ARLINGTON – By the time the Rangers step up to the plate to speak face-to-face with Carlos Delgado and agent David Sloane on Friday, they'll already be behind in the count.

    The Rangers signed reliever Carlos Almanzar for a one-year base salary of $1.1 million. Their chief competition for Delgado – the Florida Marlins and New York Mets – will each have had two cuts. Sloane, who had a long conversation with Marlins officials on Tuesday, said he would meet with the Mets today in Puerto Rico.

    Mets officials met with Delgado, sans Sloane, in Puerto Rico a little over a week ago. The Marlins met with the duo in South Florida over the weekend. This will be the Rangers first significant contact since Sloane met with a slew of teams at the winter meetings.

    "We are going to give it our best shot," Rangers owner Tom Hicks said from the Dominican Republic. "We know he's got other opportunities, but we like how we stack up. We're an [American League] team. He likes our park. He likes our young team. He likes our bullpen."

    One potential sticking point for Delgado, however, might be his role. While the Marlins and Mets are willing to make Delgado a full-time first baseman, he would likely DH the majority of the time in Texas and spell Mark Teixeira in the field for 30 or so games.

    Almanzar signs: The Rangers remained perfect in the John Hart era at avoiding a salary arbitration hearing by agreeing to terms with right-handed reliever Carlos Almanzar. Almanzar will receive a base salary of $1.1 million.

    The Rangers had already agreed with their other three arbitration-eligible players: catcher Rod Barajas, second baseman Alfonso Soriano and outfielder Gary Matthews Jr.

    "We don't like to go to hearings and get into a contrary situation with the players," GM Hart said. "We believe in them all year, we don't want to say anything negative in a hearing. This way, we go forward as a band of brothers."

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    No rush for extensions: While owner Tom Hicks said he expects manager Buck Showalter to be with the team for a long time, he said a contract extension was not on the team's immediate agenda.

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  • Nick
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    The good news is, on the Rams’ roster, all of the pieces matter. Sure, the team has locked in core players such as Aaron Donald, Jared Goff, Jalen Ramsey, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp on long-term deals, but around them, many players who don’t have that same contract status have been showing up and playing well. The roster is more complementary in that regard than many expected heading into the 2020 season.

    The bad news is, the Rams can’t keep all of those players.

    The front office is preparing for a 2021 that includes a $175 million salary cap, which would be nearly a $25 million decrease from this season because of the revenue hits the NFL is taking amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Rams already are projected to be approximately $26 million over that, so they will need to restructure some of their bulkier contracts, and they’ll also be faced with difficult decisions about multiple pending free agents.

    Most, if not all, of the aforementioned “core contracts,” and especially recent deals with Kupp and Woods, can be pulled open and restructured for more immediate cap help. But doing so pushes more money to the back end of those deals, so as the Rams weigh who to retain, they must decide whether making room for a player is worth the inevitable financial hit.

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    Breathe in.
    Breathe out.
    The initial wave of transactions seemed closer to the opening of the stock market than the NFL's new league year.
    Backup quarterback Mike Glennon agreed to a contract with the Chicago Bears for $14.5 million per season, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Cornerback A.J. Bouye struck gold when he decided to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars for five years and $67.5 million, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. The Cleveland Browns made Kevin Zeitler the highest paid guard in NFL history, according to Schefter.
    After the initial sticker shock wears off, a realization occurs many quality free agents are still available with copious amounts of money to be spent throughout the league.
    With the first stage of free agency complete, the market starts to settle, while teams continue to search for quality additions at the right price.
    A team or teams "winning" free agency on the first day rarely results in a positive impact. Instead, it's those franchises willing to wait, find bargains and supplement their rosters that often successfully navigate the process.
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    2 of 15

    Tony Avelar/Associated Press
    1. Colin Kaepernick: Politics aside, Kaepernick played relatively well last season. During a six-game stretch in October and November, the quarterback completed 55.3 percent of his passes for 1,440 yards and 10 touchdowns.
    2. Ryan Fitzpatrick: The Harvard product lost the Fitz-magic. It's gone. But he can still serve as an experienced backup option.
    3. Mark Sanchez: It has been seven years since the Sanchise ledthe New York Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Games. He's only 30 years old and may get another chance at a new destination.
    4. Geno Smith: Some team will take a flyer on this 26-year-old former second-round pick.
    5. Case Keenum: Last season proved to be a disaster. Keenum finished 22nd overall in completion percentage and 23rd in yards per attempt. He also threw more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (nine).
    6. Josh McCown: The veteran signal-caller is a consummate professional and an ideal backup.
    7. Shaun Hill: The 37-year-old quarterback dates back to NFL Europe, but he can still start in a pinch.
    8. Matt McGloin: McGloin doesn't have the physical tools to succeed as a starting quarterback, yet his...
    -03-10-2017, 10:25 AM