Four-time Pro Bowler refused paycut

Updated: September 2, 2003, 10:09 PM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Four-time Pro Bowl strong safety Lawyer Milloy was released by the Patriots on Tuesday after refusing to take a paycut.

Lawyer Milloy
Milloy

Milloy, 29, was in the fourth year of a seven-year, $35 million contract and was scheduled to make $4.5 million this year. He had a $5.856 million cap number, which New England was trying to reduce. The Patriots will lose $4.05 million off of next year's salary cap because of the remaining proration of his contract.

Will Milloy face Pats in Week 1?
Could standout strong safety Lawyer Milloy actually line up against his former team in Sunday's regular season opener? Don't bet against it.

Armed with Drew Bledsoe's endorsement, the Buffalo Bills have already contacted Milloy's agents and made an opening contract proposal, ESPN.com has learned.

The Patriots and Bills meet in Buffalo Sunday in what already is seen as a key matchup of AFC East contenders.

Several teams may be interested in Milloy, a top safety and respected locker room presence. A few might hesitate to sign Milloy, 29, before this weekend, since "vested" veterans have their base salaries guaranteed on opening day, but Buffalo wants to complete a deal quickly if the financial numbers are right.

"We'd sign him right now and play him on Sunday," said a high-ranking team official.

The current Buffalo starters, Coy Wire and Pierson Priloeau, are solid defenders but not in Milloy's class. The two did not have an interception between them in 2002.
--Len Pasquarelli

"This is a player and person I have immense respect for, and he meant a lot to this team and organization," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "Unfortunately he's a casualty of the system. The timing is not good. We tried to find a way to make it work. In the end, we weren't able to get to that point."

Belichick said the negotiations for a revised deal have been ongoing since April. Belichick said this is not the way he wanted the relationship to end, adding that a player of Milloy's caliber can't be replaced.

"Has it ever been this quiet in here? I don't think it has," linebacker Tedy Bruschi, Milloy's rookie roommate in 1996, said. "I think 'shocked' is the word. ... You sort of just shake your head and ask yourself, 'Why?' "

"It is scary in the timing," cornerback Ty Law said. "There's such a thing as good business and bad business. I don't know what category this one falls under. But to my eyes, and being selfish, at this late in the game and in regard to him and his family, I'm quite sure this is something that could have been done a long time ago."

Milloy played 106 consecutive games and has been the Patriots' captain the past three seasons. The Patriots signed strong safety Rodney Harrison to work with him during the offseason; Harrison has been working at free safety.

Antwan Harris and Chris Akins will compete for the strong safety job. There are no plans to bring in another player from outside the organization.

"I feel like I'm ready," Harris said. "I'm ready to go out there and show what I can do. I'm not any Lawyer Milloy. I'm Antwan. I have to take my abilities and put them on the field.''

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer