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Secondary addressed with ex-Viking Kelly

6/29/2004

Houston Texans: Moving to further strengthen a secondary that will undergo some changes this season, the Texans have claimed former Vikings cornerback Eric Kelly on waivers.

Kelly, 27, could compete with two-year veteran DeMarcus Faggins for the nickel spot in the secondary and, at worst, provides the Texans the luxury of an experienced corner at the No. 4 spot on the depth chart. Veteran Aaron Glenn and first-round draft choice Dunta Robinson are the projected starting corners. Former starter Marcus Coleman is moving to free safety this year.

Originally a third-round choice out of Kentucky in '01, Kelly started 23 games for the Vikings during his first two seasons. But in 2003, with Minnesota coaches making changes in the secondary, his role changed and he became a nickel defender and special teams player. Despite playing in all 16 games in 2003, Kelly logged no starts.

He re-signed with the Vikings as a restricted free agent, getting a one-year contract for the low-level qualifying offer of $628,000, but was released on June 18. The Texans will assume that contract.

Kelly had requested his release when the Vikings staff promoted second-year pro Rushen Jones ahead of him to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. His release came one week after he asked coach Mike Tice to cut him free.

In three seasons, Kelly appeared in 48 games. He totaled 143 tackles, three interceptions and nine passes defensed.

The Texans also claimed a pair of undrafted college free agents, tailback Derrick Knight of Boston College and linebacker D.D. Acholonu of Washington State, on waivers. Knight was released recently by the Panthers and Acholonu by the Bills. Knight rushed for 1,721 yards in 2003. Acholonu posted 32½ sacks for his career, and had 16½ of those last season.
-- Len Pasquarelli, ESPN.com

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers have claimed former St. Louis Rams defensive back Shane Walton on waivers. A second-year veteran, Walton was released last week. The former Notre Dame star was a fifth-round pick in the 2003 draft.

Walton, 24, appeared in just four games in 2003, primarily on special teams, and he finished his rookie season on injured reserve with a back injury. His release by the Rams, in only his second NFL campaign, was mildly surprising.

A three-year college starter, Walton registered 148 tackles and 11 interceptions during his career with the Fighting Irish. He was named to several All-American teams in 2002, when he had 65 tackles and seven interceptions as a senior.
-- LP

Washington Redskins: Second-year tight end Kevin Ware, who appeared in 11 games as a rookie last season, was arrested over the weekend in Houston for public intoxication. Ware, 23, was arrested early Sunday morning outside a downtown night spot, a Houston Police Department spokesman confirmed.

Details of the arrest were not immediately available. "Obviously, this is a very serious situation, but we will refrain from comment until we have more details," the team said in a statement.

Ware is a Houston native who played collegiately at Washington. He made the Redskins roster as an undrafted free agent, alternated between the active roster and practice squad, and caught three passes for 17 yards with no touchdowns.
-- LP

San Francisco 49ers: Rookie safety Keith Lewis, the latter of the 49ers' two sixth-round draft choices, has signed a three-year, $974,000 contract. Lewis, who played at Oregon, is the first of the 49ers' 10 selections to reach contract terms.

The three-year contract includes a $54,000 signing bonus and minimum base salaries of $230,000 (for 2004), $305,000 ('05) and $385,000 ('06). The '04 cap charge for the deal is $248,000.

Lewis, 22, was twice named to the all-Pac 10 team. He started in 37 of 49 appearances and totaled 277 tackles, 11 interceptions, 26 passes defensed, two sacks, two forced fumbles and three recoveries. A special teams standout, Lewis also set a school career record with seven blocked kicks.
-- LP