Cowboys beat Patriots, Dolphins, Saints to Price

Updated: September 4, 2005, 1:08 AM ET
By John Clayton and Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Peerless Price
Price

The Dallas Cowboys won the Peerless Price sweepstakes Saturday, reaching agreement on a one-year contract worth $2 million.

The Cowboys beat out the Patriots, Dolphins and Saints in a competitive couple days of recruiting and negotiating with Price, who was released by the Atlanta Falcons in the cutdown to 65 earlier in the week.

Cutdown day, plus a trade
IRVING, Texas -- In addition to Peerless Price, the Cowboys have another newcomer -- linebacker Scott Fujita, who was acquired from Kansas City for a sixth-round draft choice in 2006 and a conditional pick in 2007.

Fujita has started 41 of the Chiefs' last 43 games on the strong side and led the team in tackles the last two years. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells has been concerned about depth at linebacker as the team converts to a 3-4 formation.

The most notable Cowboys among the 15 released Saturday were offensive linemen Kurt Vollers and Tyson Walter, defensive tackle Leo Carson, deep snapper Jeff Robinson and safety Lynn Scott, whose departure leaves only two safeties -- starters Roy Williams and Keith Davis.

The release of Vollers and Walter was a surprise because both were mentioned as top backups at multiple spots. Carson started 15 games last season but was squeezed out by the arrival of Jason Ferguson and the change to a three-man line. Robinson's job went to Jon Condo, one of 10 rookies to make the club.

Rookie safety Justin Beriault and second-year linebacker Kalen Thornton were put on injured reserve. Both have knee problems, with Beriault's likely requiring surgery.

Those relieved to make it include running back Marion Barber III, fullback Lousaka Polite and offensive lineman Ben Noll. Jose Cortez goes in as the kicker, although Parcells has repeatedly warned that's subject to change.

Veterans released included linebacker Keith O'Neil, recently added safety Rich Coady and safety Woody Dantzler.
-- Associated Press

On Friday, the numbers were at the $1.5 million level. The Cowboys finished the negotiations Saturday afternoon by offering the wide receiver $2 million for the season, including $500,000 in a signing bonus.

While the money was a factor in Price's decision, since Dallas' offer was considerably more than the other proposals he received, Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe should get credit for an assist in helping to get Price to sign.

Bledsoe has been essentially recruiting Price by phone for more than a month. The two played together in Buffalo, where the receiver was successful as the No. 2 option behind starter Eric Moulds. Bledsoe has stayed in close contact for much of the offseason, or ever since it became apparent Price's days in Atlanta were numbered.

The quarterback clearly believes that Price, who had a career-best season in 2002 (94 catches, 1,252 yards, nine touchdowns) when Bledsoe was throwing to him, is salvageable. Others around the league who feel Price still has quick feet but has lost some speed -- he was never as straight-line fast as some people claimed he was -- aren't quite as sure. But Bledsoe has lobbied owner Jerry Jones and coach Bill Parcells hard to bring Price aboard, probably as the No. 3 receiver behind starters Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn.

Price sat in Jones' owners box during the Cowboys' preseason finale against the Texans. Price had just visited with the Patriots and Dolphins, but the Cowboys continued pitching their team and Parcells.

Interestingly, Price told friends of his failed two-year tenure in Atlanta that he might never have approved the 2003 trade to the Falcons had he known he was "going to Nebraska." It was an allusion to the fact that, even with Michael Vick as the starting quarterback, a guy with whom Price desperately wanted to play when the deal was made, the Falcons are a run-first offense. The irony is that, in signing with the Cowboys, he will be going to an offense that is likewise run-oriented and in which second-year running back Julius Jones figures to be the centerpiece.

Patrick Crayton had beaten out Quincy Morgan for the No. 3 role, but that goes to Price unless he gets the opportunity to start.

Morgan might be among the team's final cuts.

John Clayton and Len Pasquarelli are senior NFL writers for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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