Sharpe may retire to join CBS

Updated: May 14, 2004, 11:12 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Denver Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe may have changed his mind about playing in 2004 now that a potential opportunity in television has developed.

The all-time NFL leader in receptions by a tight end, Sharpe spent months considering his retirement, then announced shortly after the draft that he would return for his 15th, and final, season in 2004. Events of the last few days, however, could change his direction.

Sharpe is believed to be the leading candidate to replace Deion Sanders on the in-studio panel of the CBS pregame show, "The NFL Today." He will meet next Tuesday in New York with CBS officials to discuss the position. Sharpe is familiar to CBS executives, having worked the playoffs for the network in the past.

Given that such a high-profile TV position might not be available next spring, when Sharpe had planned to retire, the talkative tight end could alter his timetable. Sanders and CBS parted on Wednesday over compensation issues.

Perhaps sensing Sharpe has changed his mind, the Broncos have signed free agent tight end Byron Chamberlain.

The nine-year veteran, who began his career in Denver and played the first six seasons of his career with the Broncos, signed a one-year contract. The deal is believed to include a base salary of $760,000. Chamberlain was released by the Redskins earlier this offseason.

Chamberlain, 32, played much of his career as Sharpe's backup, beginning in 1995 when he joined the Broncos as a seventh-round draft choice.

The former Wayne State standout left Denver in '01, signing with the Minnesota Vikings as an unrestricted free agent, and his career has been a roller coaster ride of sorts since then. In his first season in Minnesota, he enjoyed a career year, with 54 receptions for 645 yards and three touchdowns, and earned Pro Bowl honors.

His numbers dropped in 2002 and then, last summer Chamberlain was suspended by the league for four games for a violation of the steroid abuse policy. He was subsequently released, signed with the Redskins, and played in only four games, catching just four passes for 29 yards.

Washington released Chamberlain several weeks ago. In addition to the Broncos, the Tampa Bay Bucs also made him a contract offer.

Chamberlain has 167 catches for 2,048 yards and six touchdowns for his career. He has appeared in 106 games and started 24 of them.

Beyond Sharpe and Chamberlain, the Broncos currently have four other tight ends on the roster. Longtime tight end Dwayne Carswell was moved to offensive tackle at minicamp last week but, obviously, could be switched back to his original position if necessary.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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