Lions DE Ends Lengthy Holdout

All-Pro defensive end Robert Porcher agreed to a one-year tender offer of $4.253 million with the Detroit Lions, ending a holdout that dragged on nearly six months.

The agreement, announced Wednesday after the second of two practice sessions at Saginaw Valley State, means the Lions can retain the franchise player designation while beginning talks with Porcher on an extended contract.

But the holdout almost certainly cost Porcher some money.

The Lions' final offer to Porcher was $35 million for five years, including a $12 million signing bonus. Lions general manager Chuck Schmidt said it was the largest contract ever offered by the club.

Porcher, an eight-year veteran who led the NFL in sack yardage a season ago with 106, was asking for $41.5 million with a $15 million bonus through his South Carolina-based agent, Ricky Lefft. He also was seeking another $2 million guaranteed later in the contract.

On Feb. 11, Porcher decided at the last minute to take the Lions' offer. But by the time he called them back to accept deal, the Lions had faxed the NFL the information making him the team's franchise player, and it was too late to withdraw it.

Under league rules, until Porcher signed the one-year tender, the Lions couldn't offer him a contract extension without jeopardizing the franchise tag. The franchise player designation severely limits a free agent's ability to negotiate with other teams.

"We're going to treat Robert like any other one-year player and try like the dickens to get him signed to a long-term contract," Schmidt said. "But we've got to start from scratch. It's going to take some time. Some things are different now. They aren't like they were Feb. 11."

In other words, the Lions don't have $35 million to offer Porcher any more.

The $4.253 million Porcher will receive for signing the one-year tender is the average of the five highest-paid NFL defensive ends in 1999.

Lions coach Bobby Ross said Porcher, who spends the off-season in Orlando, Fla., was expected in camp in time for the lone afternoon practice Thursday. But he won't play in Friday night's exhibition opener against the New England Patriots.

"Robert always keeps himself in pretty good shape," Ross said. "But we're talking football shape. I think he'll need four days of intensive work. Then, maybe he'll be ready for next week's game against Buffalo."

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