Titans' Miller signing a sign of the times

On The NFL

February 20, 2000|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

When the St. Louis Rams lost to the Tennessee Titans last October in what turned out to be a Super Bowl preview, Rams offensive tackle Fred Miller struggled against Jevon Kearse.

Miller was so psyched by the Titans' pass rusher that he was guilty of six false starts and was called for two holding penalties.

Yet the Titans lured Miller from the Rams with a six-year, $24 million deal, including a $4.5 million signing bonus.

St. Louis coach Mike Martz said: "There's a little bit of panic [in free agency] like there is on Wall Street. You go like crazy to get these guys.

"At that value, we just couldn't afford Freddie. Is Freddie worth it? He got it, so he must be worth it."

That's the story of free agency. Tennessee lost its right tackle, Jon Runyan, who signed a $30 million deal with a $9.5 million signing bonus in Philadelphia, so the Titans were desperate to replace him.

Granted, Miller improved during the season and played better against Kearse in the Super Bowl, even though Kearse was only about a second away from pushing Miller into Kurt Warner on his game-winning touchdown pass.

Even Martz conceded: "He struggled down in Tennessee. But when you look at him in the Super Bowl against Tennessee, he played really well."

Miller said: "That was just one game [in Tennessee] -- one bad game on my part. But I've had a lot of good games."

The continuing Warner saga

There are still no signs that success is spoiling Warner.

In the latest Warner story, he was signing autographs after a Pro Bowl practice when he was told the bus was waiting for him.

He broke up the session and went to the bus, only to find out it was empty except for the driver. The rest of the players had left on an earlier bus. So Warner got off and signed autographs and posed for pictures with the fans for another hour.

Warner was on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno Thursday night and agreed to throw rolls of toilet paper into the crowd the way he used to do when he was stocking shelves in a grocery store.

Vermeil's bonus

If the Rams had a losing season in 1999, coach Dick Vermeil would have been fired and would have walked away with $3.9 million for the final two years of his contract.

Instead, he won the Super Bowl and retired, but he still got $2 million. The Rams gave him that as a bonus -- to be paid over the next four years -- for winning the Super Bowl.

49ers problems

The San Francisco 49ers are finally paying the piper for their free-spending ways of the past.

They are being charged $12 million under the cap for players not on the roster, including $2.7 million for Tim McDonald, $2.2 million for Lee Woodall, $2 million for Merton Hanks, $1.9 million for Chris Doleman and $900,000 for Charles Haley.

On top of that, they have one player from each of the drafts of 1995 (J. J. Stokes), 1996 (Terrell Owens) and 1997 (Greg Clark).

They're also on the books for $50 million in pro-rated bonus money in 2001 and beyond. The years of bad drafts and the lack of money under the cap are going to make it difficult for the 49ers to rebuild.

Meanwhile, the 49ers' plight must be making Cleveland fans a bit nervous.

Dwight Clark, the architect of those failed 49ers drafts, is running the personnel department for the Browns.

Young's future

The 49ers might save some cap money by releasing Steve Young after June 1.

In fact, the scenario they're talking about in Denver is that Young will ask for his release to be reunited with coach Mike Shanahan, his offensive coordinator when the 49ers won the Super Bowl after the 1994 season.

Shanahan can't discuss this because of the tampering rules, but it's the subject of much conversation in Denver.

The first report was that Young had an out clause he could trigger in his contract, but salary cap rules made that impossible.

Now the feeling is that if Young decides he wants to leave, the 49ers would grant him his wish. Young probably doesn't want to play behind the porous 49ers line.

Right name, wrong person

A 30-year-old mutual fund salesman named Corey Dillon from Denver checked into a Cleveland hotel last week.

The AP got a tip and reported that the Cincinnati Bengals running back was in town for an unannounced visit with the Browns.

The problem was that the man in Cleveland was Dillon the salesman, not Dillon the football player.

When Dillon the mutual fund salesman was contacted, he said he didn't plan to stop by the Browns' offices. "But if they want a 6-foot, 180-pound white guy, I'm available," he said.

Meanwhile, Dillon is a restricted free agent, and the Bengals can match any offer for him. If they don't, the team making the offer has to give up first- and third-round draft picks.

There's been some talk that a team might make Dillon an offer with a poison pill difficult for the Bengals to match. It would be similar to the deal the New York Jets made to pry Curtis Martin from New England. It included a void clause after one year, so the Patriots would have lost him after a season if they matched it.

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