Packers' Brown is rarity: He said no to big bucks

On the NFL

February 23, 1997|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Reggie White helped the Green Bay Packers hold the line again last week.

White helped persuade free-agent defensive lineman Gilbert Brown to stay in Green Bay for less money than what Jacksonville was offering. He made daily calls to Brown, trying to sell him on the idea of staying.

The Jaguars were willing to offer him more than $3 million a year and it was assumed Brown was going to take it. Players almost always take the best deal.

Sure, Jerome Bettis stayed in Pittsburgh for a bit less ($14.4 million for four years) than he could have gotten on the open market, but he needed Pittsburgh's offensive line to block for him. On the other hand, Brown could play the run as easily for Jacksonville as he could for Green Bay.

The best Green Bay could offer was $2.75 million a year in a three- year deal. When Jacksonville heard Brown was wavering, it increased its offer to about $400,000 a year more than what the Packers were offering.

"We fought like crazy," said Michael Huyghue, the Jacksonville vice president.

In the end, though, Brown couldn't leave White, his teammates and the Green Bay fans.

"Basically, my heart was right here in Green Bay," he said.

He also remembered signing autographs and one little girl said to him, "Don't leave."

He added, "I thought she was playing, but then I saw a tear come down. Money to some people is everything. It doesn't mean too much to me."

Of course, at $8.25 million for three years, Brown, 350 pounds, isn't exactly worried about where his next meal is coming from.

But for once, an athlete didn't just say, "Show me the money."

Making the deal

Paul Allen, the former Microsoft executive, showed he's serious about buying the Seattle Seahawks when he came up with $10 million in bonuses to sign a pair of Pittsburgh free agents, linebacker Chad Brown and cornerback Willie Williams.

Allen has an option of buying the team from Ken Behring if the funding for a stadium is approved.

There's just one other problem besides the stadium funding. It's against NFL rules for Allen to buy the Seahawks because he owns another pro team, the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has been trying to change that rule since Wayne Huizenga bought the Dolphins in 1994, but has yet to come up with the 23 votes necessary to get it passed.

Huizenga is likely to go to court if the owners don't pass the measure at their annual meeting in two weeks.

Meanwhile, Allen's $10 million bonus spending spree isn't likely to make the owners thrilled about the prospect of changing a rule to allow another big-spending owner into the lodge.

Salary cap squeeze

Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson and Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda have something in common this year.

Neither will be able to play with a full deck because each is paying for the salary-cap mistakes made by previous regimes.

Johnson is being charged for almost $7 million against this year's cap for players he has shipped out, including Eric Green, who's now with the Ravens.

Meanwhile, when the Ravens trade or cut Eric Turner this week, their tab will surpass $6.3 million for dismissed players.

And they must make a decision on Rob Burnett, who's recovering from a knee injury, but is due a $1.3 million roster bonus by Saturday if he's still on the team. They also have $1.2 million left on their books from Burnett's signing bonus.

But at least the Ravens have more room under the cap than the Dolphins do.

The Dolphins are around $4 million under. The Ravens will have more than $7 million once Turner departs.

This will give the Ravens more flexibility than they had last season, when they didn't have enough salary cap room for a practice squad much of the year.

Boomerang

The Philadelphia Eagles are learning a bird in the hand is sometimes worth two in the bush.

They brought Ravens center Steve Everitt for a free agent visit last week on the same day their current center, Raleigh McKenzie, was visiting San Diego.

Since McKenzie is 34, the Eagles are looking to replace him for the future. But the Chargers, figuring he's good for two more years, guaranteed him he'd be the starting center this fall and signed him for two years for the bargain price of $1.75 million.

Meanwhile, Everitt rejected the Eagles' offer of $11.5 million for two years that had only a $600,000 signing bonus, even though the first two years were guaranteed.

The Eagles have plenty of room under the cap -- $12.5 million, a figure second only to Atlanta's $13.6 million -- but they don't have a lot of cash because owner Jeff Lurie faces huge interest payments on his $185 million purchase price and doesn't have lucrative club seats at Veterans Stadium.

The Eagles now have to boost their offer to Everitt or find another center.

The Phillips file

St. Louis Rams coach Dick Vermeil has been on the job only a month, but he's quickly finding out that dealing with controversial running back Lawrence Phillips is virtually a full-time job.

Phillips was arrested and charged twice last week -- for %o disorderly conduct at a party, and for not reporting an accident and driving with a revoked license when he rammed his HumVee into a five-foot pillar at the entrance to his subdivision Jan. 30.

Meanwhile, he faces a hearing March 14 to revoke his one-year probation for misdemeanor assault of a former girlfriend because he pleaded no contest last December to drunken driving in California.

Since Phillips was drafted by the Rams last April, he has been arrested three times, hit with three civil suits, fined about 30 times for violation of team rules and failed to show up for the third day of minicamp last year.

Vermeil, though, isn't giving up on Phillips -- yet.

"The greatest thing that could happen to Lawrence is for him to fall in love with some very stable young lady and get married. And then he'd have someone that counts on him, and he counts on her, and they form a real commitment," Vermeil said.

Pub Date: 2/23/97

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