Freeman's best bet is Green Bay

Antonio Freeman has the green light to negotiate a trade between other teams and the Green Bay Packers, but don't expect the veteran wide receiver to be leaving the Packers any time soon.<p>

If Freeman still wants to start in the National Football League, his best bet is to remain with the Green Bay Packers. While there are a number of teams looking for No. 3 and No. 4 receivers, few are seeking starters. And if they are, they'll probably select a wide receiver in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft rather than insert Freeman, who has lost some of the sizzle he once had between 1996 and '98 with the Packers.

However, by allowing Freeman and his agent, Joel Segal, to negotiate with other teams now, Freeman may realize that he may be better off to accept a pay cut and challenge second-year pro Robert Ferguson for the chance to start opposite Terry Glenn for the Packers.

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

At this point, Freeman simply will have a tough chance to suit up for another NFL team and start. He probably could sign with another team and enter games as a reserve, but there are few teams in need of a receiver that have the potential to go deep into the playoffs like the Packers. If Freeman wants a shot at another Super Bowl ring, he would be better off to agree to an incentive-laden deal with the Packers.

Freeman, 29, is entering the fourth year of a seven-year, $42 million deal he signed in 1999. The Packers most likely won't be able to deal him before June 1 because of salary cap constraints. 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 received in '99. 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.

But Freeman knows the offense better than any receiver on the Packers' roster right now. He and Brett Favre have combined for 57 touchdowns, fifth in NFL history.

Here's a look at some of the teams that may have an interest in Freeman:

Denver: The Broncos were so decimated at the position last year that they sometimes used three-TE sets, even on third downs. The Broncos cannot be sure about Ed McCaffrey's status until the preseason.

The Broncos recently signed veteran free agent Rob Moore.

San Diego: The Chargers have a bevy of needs, including wide receiver.

Houston: The Texans signed ex-Packers receiver Corey Bradford, but they still are looking for a starter. Freeman probably won't fit general manager Charley Casserly's criteria, and the Texans will seek younger receivers through the draft.

Jacksonville: They signed Patrick Johnson to replace Keenan McCardell, who will be a June 1 cut, but have little glitter at the position aside from Pro Bowl player Jimmy Smith.

Baltimore: The Ravens could be especially appealing to Freeman, since Baltimore is his home town. The Ravens currently feature wide receivers Travis Taylor and Brandon Stokley, but the team also is revamping its roster, which could mean a long couple of seasons ahead.

Dallas: The Cowboys are looking for a big wide receiver who can go with speedsters Joey Galloway and Raghib Ismail.

New York Giants: They could use a wide receiver, especially if they opt not to re-sign Joe Jurevicius.

Carolina: With Donald Hayes high-tailing it to New England and Patrick Jeffers still considered an injury risk, are looking for help at wide receiver, but they will need help in many places.

Arizona: The Cardinals will probably look for help at wide receiver in the draft with Frank Sanders entering the final year of his contract.

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