Cap-tastrophe: NFL Vets Cut

Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson (87) is tackled short of the goal line by Rams linebacker Mike Jones.
Super Bowl hero Mike Jones was one of the first casualties as NFL teams began preparing Wednesday for the free-agent period with a series of moves.

Among the others to go were tackles D'Marco Farr and Ray Agnew, teammates of Jones on the St. Louis defense that turned porous one year after winning the Super Bowl. Linebacker Bryan Cox was one of five New York Jets let go by the team's new administration.

Ray Buchanan, who was slated to be the top cornerback on the market, re-signed with the Atlanta Falcons.

Also, the agent for Ted Washington, Buffalo's 350-pound nose tackle, said the team planned to release him because he refused to take a pay cut for the second straight season.

Washington, which had the league's highest payroll at $92.4 million, will cut guards Tre Johnson and Keith Sims, receiver Irving Fryar and tackle Derek G. Smith. Johnson, Sims and Smith all failed physicals this week and will receive injury settlements.

All the moves came in preparation for Thursday, when teams must designate franchise and transition players for the free-agent signing period, which begins March 2.

"Releasing them obviously is a very difficult thing to do. But it's something we needed to do to create some cap room," Rams coach Mike Martz told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Rams saved nearly $4.8 million in cap money with their three cuts $2.1 million for Agnew, about $1.5 million for Farr and $1.16 million for backup center Steve Everitt, who also was released.

But Jones, who was a free agent anyway, is the best known because of one play tackling Tennessee's Kevin Dyson a yard short of the goal line on the final play of the Rams' 23-16 win over Tennessee to save the Super Bowl last year.

None of the moves are necessarily permanent teams often re-sign players after cutting them. But they seem to be in the case of the three Rams defenders. Jones' production slipped this year; Farr had knee roblems that limited him to 10 games, and Agnew is 33.

Most of all, the team allowed 471 points after giving up just 242 in 1999, lost the NFC West to New Orleans and was eliminated by the Saints in its first playoff game.

St. Louis may also designate another defensive disappointment, Kevin Carter, as their franchise player. That could allow them to get first-round drat picks by trading the defensive end, who slipped from 17 sacks to 10.5 last season after failing to reach agreement with the team on a new contract.

Along with Cox, the Jets released two other linebackers Dwayne Gordon and Roman Phifer. Also cut was defensive tackle Ernie Logan and running back Bernie Parmalee.

The Jets saved about $11 million in salary cap money with their moves. They also restructured the contract of receiver Wayne Chrebet and are close to doing the same with quarterback Vinny Testaverde, which would save at least another $2 million.

"Herman and I had to make some tough decisions relative to the makeup and direction of the football team," new general manager Terry Bradway said, referring to new coach Herman Edwards, who is installing a 4-3 defense and can get by with fewer linebackers. "The present system requires certain rules and we have to abide by those rules."

Cox, 34, signed a three-year contract after last season, but a clause allowed him to negate it before free agency began, something he had planned to do with the departure of Bill Parcells from the organization. He would have counted more than $4 million against the cap in 2001.

Terms of Buchanan's new deal with the Falcons were not immediately available.

The 29-year-old cornerback was seeking a five-year contract worth approximately $28 million, including an $8 million signing bonus. The Falcons had offered a signing bonus closer to $6 million with a five-year contract worth nearly $23 million.

But the team said it would have designated him its franchise player had he not signed.

"That would be bad," Buchanan said. "Bad for me and bad for them."

Washington's agent, Angelo Wright, said his client, who was scheduled to make $7.6 million next season, had been asked to take a cut by the Bills, who are believed to be $13 million over the cap.

"It wouldn't behoove us to take pay cut. He's got three years left in him as a starter and maybe another year as a backup," Wright said. "He loves Buffalo, and enjoyed playing there, but he can't dictate what happens."

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