Coleman opts out of contract with Raiders

For the second time this week, a Raiders player has opted to void the remainder of his contract and become eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Updated: February 12, 2004, 11:28 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

For the second time this week, an Oakland Raider has opted to void the remainder of his contract and become eligible for unrestricted free agency.

ESPN.com has learned that Rod Coleman, a five-year veteran defensive tackle who will generate considerable attention in free agency, has negated the final two seasons of his deal. Earlier this week, ESPN.com's John Clayton reported that tailback Charlie Garner opted out of the 2004 segment of his contract to be able to enter the unrestricted pool once free agency officially begins on March 3.

Garner must pay the Raiders $400,000 to opt out of the final year of his deal. There is no such payment required by Coleman, however, since he easily achieved predetermined playing time levels specified in his contract, benchmarks that permit him to expunge it.

Under the original contract that Coleman signed as a fifth-round draft choice of the Raiders in 1999, he was to have been under contract through 2005. To void those years, however, he needed only to participate in 15 percent of Oakland's defensive snaps as a rookie or in 30 percent of the plays in any subsequent season.

Coleman, 27, and agent Pat Dye are preparing the appropriate paperwork to void the deal.

A former East Carolina star, Coleman figures to be a coveted player once the free-agent signing period begins. The defensive tackle position is traditionally one of the toughest for all teams to fill and Coleman has a rare quality -- the proven ability to rush the passer from the interior -- that will earn him attention.

Despite starting only two games in 2002, Coleman led all NFL defensive tackles with 11 sacks. He fell off to 5 in 2003, in part because he played hurt for much of the year, and because the injuries to other Raiders defensive linemen. But over the last four years, Coleman has averaged seven sacks per season and, even with a dropoff in sacks in 2003, he still posted a career-best 52 tackles.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.