Advertisement

Veteran stars go unprotected in Plan B free agency

By
DAVE RAFFO UPI Sports Writer

NEW YORK -- Super Bowl XXII MVP Doug Williams, Pro Bowl linemen Max Montoya and Doug Smith, 1,000-yard rusher Ottis Anderson and San Francisco 49ers starters Brent Jones and Keena Turner were among 490 NFL players left unprotected by their clubs in Plan B free agency, the NFL announced Friday.

Each of the 28 NFL teams protected 37 players, leaving the remaining 490 free to negotiate with any other club until April 1. Those players can sign without compensation to their former teams. If they are unsigned April 1, they may re-sign with their 1989 teams.

Advertisement

The unprotected list included veteran quarterbacks Williams, Tommy Kramer of Minnesota, Doug Flutie of New England; running backs Anderson and Joe Morris of the New York Giants and Curt Warner of Seattle; offensive linemen Montoya of Cincinnati and Smith of the Los Angeles Rams; Cleveland tight end Ozzie Newsome, linebacker Turner, defensive linemen Fred Smerlas and Art Still of Buffalo; and defensive backs Hanford Dixon of Cleveland, Terry Kinard of the Giants, Lloyd Burruss and Deron Cherry of Kansas City and Everson Walls of Dallas.

Tight end Jones caught a TD in San Francisco's 55-10 Super Bowl rout of Denver and Turner has played on four 49ers NFL championship clubs.

Advertisement

The teams with the 10 best records can sign as many players as they released, up to 15. The middle eight clubs can sign up to 25 and the bottom 10 can sign as many as they want.

Last year, the first year of Plan B free agency, 229 of the 619 unrestriced free agents signed with other clubs. Green Bay signed a league-high 20, and Chicago and Cincinnati were the only teams who signd no Plan B free agents.

More older veterans with high salaries were unprotected this year.

'We wanted to protect our young players,' said Browns general manager Ernie Accorsi, who also left defensive end Al Hairston and kicker Matt Bahr unprotected.

'It's a strategical process,' Accorsi said. 'It's not a slap in the face.'

Many teams would like to retain their unprotected stars.

Washington Coach Joe Gibbs said he was gambling that Williams would not sign before April 1.

'In Doug's case, you've got an older guy who's been hurt,' Gibbs said. 'Doug's done a lot for us. But you take all the things into consideration and you go ahead and take your best shot. We're hoping that somebody else doesn't get him.'

Advertisement

The Bengals have spoken to Montoya about staying.

'We've spoken with most of the players on the list,' Cincinnati assistant general manager Mike Brown said. 'We have put them on the list only because they assured us they intended to return to the Bengals next year.

'It's something we've chosen to risk.'

The 49ers will likely try to keep 26-year-old Jones, and the Giants will probably re-sign either Anderson or Morris.

Accorsi said he and Browns Coach Bud Carson want Dixon back.

'What we want Hanford to do is come back and compete,' Accorsi said. 'We're stronger if he's here.'

The most interesting negotiations -- and biggest contracts -- may involve the unprotected quarterbacks. Journeyman Gary Hogeboom was the big winner of last year's Plan B market, signing a $3.25 million, four-year contract with Phoenix.

With few blue chip passers available in the draft, clubs needing quarterbacks might bid high for Williams and Kramer. Williams, who guided the Redskins to a Super Bowl championship two years ago, lost his job in Washington to Mark Rypien and Kramer was pushed out of Minnesota by Wade Wilson and Rich Gannon.

Williams and Kramer are both 34, and were due to make over $1 million in 1990.

Advertisement

'I definitely plan to try to catch on somewhere else,' said Kramer, who spent 13 seasons with Minnesota. 'I know I can still play another two or three years.'The games that I started we were 4-1 (in 1989). We were 6-6 in the other games.'

Even Flutie, who hardly played in New England last season, said he was eager to test the market.

'He said he had bad news and good news,' Flutie's agent Bob Woolf said. 'The bad news was that he was not protected by the Pats, but the good news was that he was a free agent.

'If he's not going to get a chance here, then he wants a chance to play somewhere else.'

Latest Headlines