Jets hand offer sheet to Patriots back Martin New England has week to match $4 million bid

March 21, 1998|By BOSTON GLOBE

BOSTON -- Bill Parcells has made Curtis Martin a rich man and put the New England Patriots on the spot at the same time.

Martin, the Patriots' top running back, yesterday signed a one-year offer sheet with the New York Jets that would pay him $4 million this year and possibly $36 million over the next six seasons.

The Patriots have one week to match the offer or give up Martin to the Jets. If they don't match it, the Patriots would be compensated with the Jets' first- and third-round choices in next month's NFL draft.

The Patriots already have the Jets' second-round pick this year as the result of the settlement that allowed Parcells to leave for New York in February 1997 in the wake of New England's Super Bowl season. The Patriots would then have two No. 1 picks, two No. 2 picks, and two No. 3 picks in next month's draft -- six selections in the first three rounds.

If they decide to match and keep Martin, the Patriots would be in a tough spot financially. They most likely would have to cut several veterans to stay under the salary cap. They have spent $48 million on 60 players for next season, and the cap is slightly more than $51 million.

"We're probably going to go right up until the allotted time on this," said one Patriots official. "We have some thinking to do."

Martin, 24, who is coming off January abdominal surgery, has gained more than 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons since being selected as a third-round draft pick. Last season, he gained 1,160 yards despite missing the final five games.

Pub Date: 3/21/98

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