CB Ty Law's 10-year career in New England is over. In the end, the Patriots determined that Law's near $13 million salary cap number was too expensive and they released their veteran star Feb. 25 as the start of the 2005 league year approached.
Law was due $9.8 million in new money in 2005 and will still cost the Patriots around $3.2 million in dead money on the 2005 salary cap. Needing to shave between $7 million and $8 million off the cap to reach compliance by the required March 1 deadline, coach Bill Belichick obviously determined that releasing Law, his best cornerback, was the most practical way of doing that.
So Law, who is recovering from foot surgery, leaves as one of the greatest defenders in team history. In 10 years as a Patriot, Law earned four Pro Bowl berths and tied the franchise record for career interceptions with 36 while also becoming the first Patriot to ever lead the league in interceptions in a season when he posted nine in 1998. Law also was selected by fans to the Patriots Team of the Century in 2000 and was a member of four Super Bowl teams and three world championship clubs.
But after carrying Law's $10.2 million cap figure on the books last year, the $3 million increase for 2005 forced the Patriots hand. Surely the team could have retained the flashy Law, but would have had to cut multiple other players to reach cap compliance. Given that option, Belichick chose to release Law, who turned 31 on Feb. 10.
NT Jason Ferguson was given an offer to re-sign by the Jets and he seems close to returning. Ferguson had his shoulder cleaned out with an arthroscopic procedure and is expected to be fine for minicamp.
LB Sam Cowart is a likely candidate to get cut soon by the Jets. He doesn't want to play behind Jonathan Vilma and has already asked the team for a trade.
WR Plaxico Burress' days in Pittsburgh seemingly are over.
Although the Steelers and Burress' agent have said they want to keep the doors open for the big wide receiver to return, it's extremely unlikely. Burress wants two things the Steelers cannot give enough to him -- money and pass receptions.
Pittsburgh passed on making him their franchise player and having him count $7,768,000 against their salary cap. The Steelers also are not willing to pay Burress the kind of money he'll be seeking as an unrestricted free agent.
"It's not because they don't want Plax, it's more financial," said Michael Harrison, Burress' agent. "That's a lot of money to tie them under now. It's near impossible."
Burress expects a signing bonus of more than $10 million. The Steelers have never paid one that high and they are not about to start with Burress, who has been inconsistent through the years. He's never made a Pro Bowl and has never led his own team in receiving. He drops too many passes, does not run well after the catch and falls down too often.
CB Charles Woodson's $10.537 million tender is an expensive outlay for a cornerback in today's NFL, where rules favoring the passing game have conspired to prevent defensive backs from achieving greatness.
Their hands have been tied and that has all but made the "shutdown corner" a thing of the past. Take Denver and Champ Bailey. Jerry Porter burned him for three touchdowns in a game this past season.
And perhaps that is the reason the Raiders removed the exclusive franchise tag from Woodson's name Tuesday.
By making him non-exclusive, they can trade him to another club if another club thinks he merits that kind of money. And if no club comes calling, the Raiders have ammunition to fire back at the Poston brothers and negotiate a long-term deal with him later this year.
If the outside offer does come through, the Raiders can opt to match it or let him go and accept two first-round draft picks instead.
Either way, by removing the exclusive tag, the Raiders have all but said if they can finish No. 30 in the league on defense with Woodson, they can certainly do at least that well without him.
K Paul Edinger missed more field-goal attempts last season than anyone in the NFL, and the Bears will be looking in free agency for either a replacement or for someone to compete with the five-year veteran. The Vikings signed Edinger to an offer last offseason, but the Bears matched that offer.
"Special-teams-wise, we weren't pleased with our kicking game," coach Lovie Smith said. "We have to have a better field-goal percentage than we had this past year."
QB Brad Johnson was being held onto by the Bucs, at least until they reached an agreement with starter Brian Griese on a new deal. Shortly after Griese's extension, Johnson was released to save $4.5 million.
"Brad Johnson will be a valuable player for some team in this league and it might be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers," GM Bruce Allen said. "I understand Brad's desire is to hopefully get a starting job. You expect that of him."
If Gus Frerotte signs else, Johnson might be a possibility to return to Minnesota in a backup role. The Vikings tendered backup restricted free Shaun Hill, who could also move into the backup role. Last year, Hill was the Vikings' No. 3 quarterback.
DT Pat Williams of Buffalo will be easier to re-sign if RB Travis Henry is traded. Williams has 474 tackles and 13 sacks since 1997, making him among the most productive interior players in the game and he shows no signs of slowing down.
Corey Simon was given the franchise tag by Philadelphia, taking away Williams' biggest competition on the market.
Angelo Wright, Williams' agent, felt Bills' general manager Tom Donahoe would turn his sights on his client once the Henry situation was resolved.
"If he gets this deal done with (Cardinals tackle L.J.) Shelton, he'll turn and make a run at Pat, if he wants him," Wright said. "But by the end of Week 1 of free agency, Pat Williams will have a deal somewhere."
Talking to reporters at the Indianapolis Scouting Combine, Donahoe said Williams and LT Jonas Jennings are free to shop.
"We'd like to get both back if we can, but it may not be cost effective," Donahoe said.
WR Jerry Porter said he was unaware the Raiders were dickering to acquire Randy Moss when he signed his deal last Tuesday but that it didn't change his mind about being glad to remain a Raider.
"I feel great about it," Porter said of the Moss story. "I welcome him with open arms. We're going to pose a big problem for every defense we go against this year. This offense is tailor-made for a guy like him. He gets deep and he beats DBs. I know a lot of teams in the AFC West are going to draft defense right now. They changed their whole draft board."
One Moss/Porter issue would have to be resolved, however. Both wear No. 84. Moss reportedly chose No. 18 Tuesday.
Porter said he would be glad to let Moss have it. For a price.
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