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Free-agency outlook

Pro Football

February 27, 2003|By Ken Murray

Oakland: Nearly $50 million over the cap, the Raiders have some serious cutting to do. Expect them to turn loose defensive tackles Sam Adams and Darrell Russell, cornerback Tory James and perhaps wide receiver Tim Brown, who carries a $7.88 million cap number. The Raiders have 12 players with cap figures over $4 million, so the cutting should be obvious.

San Diego: The Chargers' best players already are locked up, so they won't lose much in free agency. Defensive end Adrian Dingle might attract some attention. More critical is emerging left tackle Damion McIntosh, a restricted free agent.

NFC North

Chicago: It appears the Bears want to land their quarterback in free agency and apply the fourth pick in the draft toward the defensive line. Getting it done is another story. They like free agent Jake Delhomme of New Orleans, but would have to give starter's money to make it happen. Because general manager Jerry Angelo is from Tampa Bay, the Bears could be interested in Shaun King, too.

Detroit: Remodeling an aging, underachieving roster is the priority for new coach Steve Mariucci. The Lions not only have to get younger, they also have to add more talent. Waiting for Michigan State wide receiver Charles Rogers in the draft, they probably can upgrade the defense in free agency, especially at linebacker.

Green Bay: The Packers opted to use the transition tag on defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt, who has two strikes in the league's substance-abuse program, rather than defensive end Vonnie Holliday, in part because of durability. Holliday missed six games last year with injuries. Green Bay needs to upgrade at linebacker after disappointing years from Hardy Nickerson and Nate Wayne.

Minnesota: Although they are $25 million under the cap, the Vikings still will be frugal in free agency. They want a veteran quarterback - Charlie Batch? - to mentor Daunte Culpepper. They like Holliday and need help on the defensive line. A bigger need is in the secondary, however, and there's not much available.

NFC East

Dallas: Having escaped cap jail last year, the Cowboys have some tricky decisions. They'd like to keep left tackle Flozell Adams even though he didn't have a good year, as well as linebacker Kevin Hardy, who needs to renegotiate his contract. They also have to resolve the Emmitt Smith situation. New coach Bill Parcells is expected to bid for Plummer.

New York Giants: Rarely are the Giants active in free agency, but they'll need to ante up to keep their offensive line intact. Three starters - tackles Luke Petitgout and Mike Rosenthal and guard Jason Whittle - are free agents. Petitgout is the priority. Center Chris Bober is a restricted free agent, as well.

Philadelphia: The Eagles could lose both Douglas, their pass-rushing end, and Barber from their defense. They don't like to overpay players on the downside, which will make it hard to keep Douglas. They need to improve their receiving corps, but might have to wait until the draft.

Washington: After starting six different guards last year, coach Steve Spurrier is looking for help in the interior line. They'd like to get the Jets' Thomas or the Raiders' Collins. First, Spurrier wants a big-play receiver to make his offense go. He already tried trading up for Michigan State's Rogers in the draft. The Redskins will need to find a replacement at defensive tackle if Gardener goes.

NFC South

Atlanta: The Falcons re-signed linebacker Keith Brooking and now will pursue an explosive receiver for quarterback Michael Vick. They covet Price and still could get him from Buffalo in a trade. By releasing three starters this week, they were preparing for the financial commitment that will take.

Carolina: Even though they don't have a quarterback in place, the Panthers used their franchise tag on punter Todd Sauerbrun rather than Rodney Peete, who will be 37. They will seek a quarterback in free agency and probably the draft, as well.

New Orleans: The Saints appear resigned to losing Delhomme, the backup quarterback, to a team that makes him a starter. They are some $12 million under the cap and could make a run at a few free agents. Some of that money may go to retaining kicker John Carney or defensive end Willie Whitehead, though.

Tampa Bay: Without first- or second-round picks for the second straight year, the Buccaneers must attack the free-agent market as well as try to keep their own free agents. Safety Dexter Jackson, linebacker Shelton Quarles and left tackle Roman Oben are players they want to keep. Coach Jon Gruden also must find a backup quarterback and a young one for the future, probably in the draft.

NFC West

Arizona: The Cardinals didn't apply either tag to Boston or Plummer, so both figure to join the exodus of good players who left town. Because wide-outs MarTay Jenkins and Frank Sanders are free agents, the Cardinals could wind up with an entirely new receiving corps in addition to a new quarterback. It looks like they're starting over - again.

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