NFL reaches franchise player deadline

By United Press International  |  Feb. 20, 2003 at 5:55 PM
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Baltimore cornerback Chris McAlister, Jacksonville safety Donovin Darius and New England safety Tebucky Jones were among those given a "franchise designation," Thursday on the final day NFL teams could do so.

If a team wanted to keep one of its players from entering free agency this year, it had to lable that player with either a franchise or transition designation by 3 p.m. EST Thursday.

Although the Ravens used a franchise tag on McAlister, they are hoping to reach a long-term deal with the four-year veteran.

The franchise tag means the Ravens must offer McAlister a one-year contract equal to the average of the five highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL last season, which would be $5.96 million.

"We want Chris to be a Raven for a long time," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. "By putting the franchise tag on him, we are clearly stating our intentions. We will continue to negotiate with his agent to get a deal done."

Jacksonville pay Darius at least $3.043 million next season. Darius, like McAlister, is a "non-exclusive" franchise player, which allows him to solicit offers from other teams.

Should Darius or McAlister sign with another team, their current teams could match the offer or accept two first-round draft choices. Darius also could opt for a long-term contract with the Jaguars.

Jones has said he would skip offseason workouts if the Patriots used a franchise tag on him. Like Darius, Jones will earn at least $3.043 million. Teammate and fellow safety Lawyer Milloy will earn $4.4 million in 2003, giving New England one of the highest-paid secondaries in the game.

The St. Louis Rams had already named four-time Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace as a franchise player. The Rams must offer Pace a one-year contract for at least $5.73 million.

The Buffalo Bills Wednesday designated wide receiver Peerless Price, who is coming off the best season of his four-year career with 94 catches for 1,252 yards and nine touchdowns, as a franchise player.

Price is guaranteed a one-year deal worth $5.01 million.

"We will continue to try and find a way to sign Peerless and keep him here in Buffalo," Bills president Tom Donahoe said. "We remain optimistic that this will be accomplished."

The Bills have Pro Bowl receiver Eric Moulds in the midst of a six-year contract worth $40 million, but have plenty of room under the cap to satisfy Price. Moulds led the team with 100 receptions for 1,287 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

The Carolina Panthers on Wednesday designated Todd Sauerbrun as their franchise player, guaranteeing the two-time Pro Bowl punter $1.47 million in 2003.

"Todd has been a very valuable weapon for us on special teams and we felt we couldn't let him get away," Panthers Coach John Fox said.

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