Surprises On Tender Day

<p>The Steelers let one player go on RFA Tender Day, and it may surprise some that the player was not Hank Poteat.<br> <br> Much-maligned for his poor play as a reserve cornerback near the end of the 2002 season, Poteat will more than likely participate in his fourth Steelers training camp in July after being tendered the minimum one-year offer of $605,000 yesterday by the Steelers

Instead of Poteat doing the walking, it'll be kicker Todd Peterson. The Steelers released the nine-year veteran yesterday instead of paying him a $100,000 roster bonus he was due March 1.

The Steelers will take that as their only savings. In addition to the roster bonus, the Steelers will be spared Peterson's 2003 base salary of $675,000, but that $775,000 cap savings is cut into by the $450,000 in pro-rated signing bonus money Peterson leaves on the Steelers' books, as well as the minimum cost of $225,000 needed to replace him on the roster.

Peterson lost his job last year after making only 12 of 25 field-goal attempts. He was placed on injured reserve after fracturing his ribs Nov. 17 against Tennessee. His replacement, then-rookie Jeff Reed, won the job by making 17 of 19 regular-season field-goal attempts.

Along with Poteat, the Steelers tendered offers to restricted free agents Kendrick Clancy, Clark Haggans and fullback Dan Kreider.

Kreider is the only starter of the group. Last week, the Steelers opened long-term contract negotiations with Kreider, but yesterday offered him the low tender.

In restricted free agency, the team which holds the player's rights can match any offer said player receives from another team. If the "old" team doesn't match the offer, and the player leaves, the old team may be due compensation, depending on the level of the tenders made yesterday.

The three levels are: 1.) $605,000, compensation is draft pick in the original round player was drafted; 2.) $1.318 million, compensation is first-round draft pick; and 3.) $1.758 million, compensation is first- and third-round picks.

Poteat and Clancy were third-round picks, Haggans was a fifth-round pick and Kreider was undrafted. Yesterday, all four were offered the low-level tender of $605,000. They have until April 18 to sign with a team. The final deadline for the old club – which otherwise has seven days to exercise its right of first refusal on restricted free agents -- is April 25.

If a restricted free agent doesn't accept the tender, or sign with any team by April 18, the old team has until June 15 to withdraw the qualifying offer and still retain exclusive negotiating rights and pay the player 110 percent of his previous year's salary.

On another note, following are the new minimum salaries for players with the following year's experience: 0 -- $225,000; 1 -- $300,000; 2 -- $375,000; 3 -- $450,000; 4-6 -- $530,000; 7-9 -- $655,000; 10-plus -- $755,000. Veterans with four years or more experience, who sign one-year contracts as free agents, count only $450,000 against the salary cap.

By Jim Wexell

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