Pats retain Gorin; Coakley, Middleton let go

Updated: March 2, 2005, 1:19 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: As expected, the Buccaneers have gotten rid of Super Bowl-winning quarterback Brad Johnson.

The Buccaneers released four players, including Johnson, who led them to a victory in Super Bowl XXXVII over the Oakland Raiders.

Johnson, 36, signed with the Buccaneers as a free agent in 2001 and led them to a Super Bowl title the following year, passing for 3,049 yards and 22 touchdowns with six interceptions for a rating of 92.9.

Also, the Buccaneers released receiver Joe Jurevicius, cornerback Mario Edwards and linebacker Ian Gold.

The moves helped general manager Bruce Allen clear more than $7.4 million in salary cap space.

New England Patriots: Three-year veteran offensive tackle Brandon Gorin, who started 10 games for the Super Bowl champions in 2004, has signed a three-year contract extension with the team, ESPN.com has learned.

The contract is worth at least $2.5 million but it's total value can escalate to $5.1 million if Gorin retains his starting job. Without an extension, Gorin would have been a restricted free agent, and New England likely would have retained a right of first refusal on him by making him a one-year qualifying offer.

Gorin, 26, assumed the starting role when right tackle Tom Ashworth was sidelined by a severe back problem in late October that subsequently ended his season. In addition to his 10 starts in the regular season, Gorin started all three of New England's playoff victories, including their Super Bowl XXXIX win. He is expected to compete with Ashworth for the starting job in training camp.

Dallas Cowboys: Three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Dexter Coakley was released on Tuesday.

Coakley, one of the smallest linebackers in the league at 5-foot-10, 236 pounds, would have been due a $500,000 roster bonus if he was still on the team Wednesday.

Coach Bill Parcells also prefers bigger linebackers, especially if the Cowboys make the expected switch to a primary three-man front.

The 32-year-old Coakley started all 16 games last season, but shared significant time with Bradie James, selected in the second round of the 2003 draft by Parcells. A third-round pick in 1997, Coakley started all 127 of his games and is fourth on the Cowboys' career tackles list with 1,046.

It was unclear whether the Cowboys tried to restructure the six-year, $25 million contract that Coakley signed after the 2000 season. Coakley's agent, Pat Dye, didn't return phone messages Tuesday.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Linebacker Larry Foote avoided being a restricted free agent by signing a five-year, $13.43 million contract that included a $3.25 million signing bonus.

Foote, a restricted free agent, started all 16 games in 2004 and both playoff games after replacing injured starter Kendrell Bell. The inside linebacker had 78 tackles and three sacks last season.

Foote, who joined the Steelers in 2002 as a fourth-round draft pick, was the first of the team's restricted free agents to re-sign. The team also has made qualifying offers to running back Verron Haynes, safety Chris Hope, defensive end Brett Keisel, wide receiver Lee Mays and kicker Jeff Reed.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders released offensive lineman Frank Middleton, safety Ray Buchanan and tight end Roland Williams to get under the salary cap limit by Tuesday's deadline.

Buchanan, due to make $1 million this season, is a likely candidate to be re-signed by the team for less money after he started all 16 games at free safety last season and became a defensive leader.

Middleton ended last season on injured reserve with a torn left quadriceps muscle. He said after the season he expects to be fully recovered by training camp and hoped the Raiders would keep him around. But the team certainly considered him a financial risk since he has a $2 million salary for the upcoming season.

Williams played for the Raiders in 2001 and during the team's Super Bowl season of '02, though he was plagued by injuries most of that season. He returned to the team last year but was again limited by injury.

Houston Texans: The Texans reached a four-year, $7 million contract with cornerback DeMarcus Faggins, who was scheduled to become a restricted free agent.

Faggins developed as a dependable third cornerback last season, and the Texans wanted to give him a good contract in return for his efforts.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Jaguars safety Donovin Darius signed his one-year, $4.935 million franchise tender, ending chances of him being a holdout. Darius' decision to sign the tender could mean one of two things. One, he could stay a Jaguar with a guaranteed contract. Secondly, he can be traded quickly. The Lions are interested in a possible trade for Darius.

Green Bay Packers: The team cut left guard Mike Wahle to gain $11 million of cap room.

The team also cut center Grey Ruegamer, who filled in when Mike Flanagan went down with a season-ending knee injury in the first month of last season.

The Packers re-signed wide receiver/kick returner Antonio Chatman and defensive end R-Kal Truluck to one-year deals and they tendered offers to six restricted free agents: tackle Kevin Barry, running back Najeh Davenport, defensive end Aaron Kampman, linebacker Paris Lenon and quarterbacks Craig Nall and J.T. O'Sullivan.

Wahle was the Packers' starter at left guard for the last four seasons and played in 103 consecutive games. He helped the Packers establish franchise records in total net yards (6,357) and net passing yards (4,449), and its franchise low for sacks allowed (14).

But because of the way his contract was structured, his cap number for 2005 was a prohibitive $11.337 million, second only to quarterback Brett Favre.

San Francisco 49ers: The team terminated defensive end Brandon Whiting's contract Tuesday after he failed a physical, cutting ties with the oft-injured defensive end acquired last year in the Terrell Owens trade.

Whiting was sent to San Francisco by the Philadelphia Eagles last March in exchange for Owens, who missed his chance to become a free agent because of a paperwork mix-up.

Whiting played just five games for the 49ers after getting a late start on training camp because of a back injury. He tore a knee ligament in late October and missed the rest of the season.

Whiting was a starter during parts of his six seasons in Philadelphia, with 16 1/2 sacks in 88 games. The 49ers are expected to use a 3-4 defensive alignment next season under new coach Mike Nolan, reducing their need for depth on the defensive line.

Buffalo Bills: Pat Williams became a free agent when the team failed to re-sign him before the start of the free agency period, the defensive tackle's agent told The Associated Press.

Angelo Wright said he expects his client, a four-year starter with the Bills, to sign with another team now that the NFL's free-agency period opened Wednesday.

The Bills were also expected to lose starting offensive tackle Jonas Jennings, who said Tuesday he was convinced there was no chance the team would re-sign him.

Their losses represent a significant blow to a team that was considered on the rise, finishing 9-7 last year, missing the playoffs after a season-ending loss to Pittsburgh.

Seattle Seahawks: The team tendered contract offers to all five of the team's restricted free agents.

Cornerback Kris Richard, safety Terreal Bierria, defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, tight end Ryan Hannam and safety Marquand Manuel received the offers.

The Seahawks can match any offer the five free agents receive from other teams. If any of the five sign with another team, Seattle will be compensated with a draft pick from the round in which the player was originally drafted.

Miami Dolphins: Nick Saban completed his initial staff , hiring Detroit Lions assistant Richard Smith as defensive coordinator.

The 49-year-old Smith is a 17-year NFL coaching veteran and spent the past two seasons as the assistant head coach and linebackers coach with the Lions.

"He is one of the most respected coaches in the league, who possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience," Saban said. "I coached with him in Houston in 1988 and 1989, and I've always thought he was one of the best coaches I've had the chance to work with."

Before joining the Lions, Smith spent six seasons as linebackers coach for the San Francisco 49ers, where he tutored four Pro Bowlers: Julian Peterson in 2002, Winfred Tubbs in 1998 and Ken Norton, Jr. and Lee Woodall in 1997.

Smith also coached with the Denver Broncos (1993-96) and Oilers (1988-92). A Fresno State alumnus, he also coached collegiately at Arizona, California, Cal State-Fullerton and Rio Hondo (Calif.) Junior College.

Information from ESPN.com senior NFL writers John Clayton and Len Pasquarelli and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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