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NFL briefs

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 8, 2001

Bledsoe gets $103-million

BOSTON -- Drew Bledsoe signed the biggest contract in NFL history Wednesday, agreeing to a 10-year, $103-million deal that virtually guarantees he will spend his entire career with the same team.

The deal surpasses the reported 10-year, $100-million contract signed by Packers quarterback Brett Favre on Friday. It also gives Bledsoe a chance to do something Favre and most other athletes never could: stay with one team for his careers.

"I've expressed over and over again my desire to play my entire career with the New England Patriots," Bledsoe said. "It looks like that is a very real possibility."

Owner Bob Kraft said Bledsoe has a chance to be remembered in Boston like Ted Williams, Bill Russell and Larry Bird, each having played his entire career in the city.

"I remember feeling sad when Bobby Orr left," Kraft said of the NHL Hall of Famer who left Boston for Chicago near the end of his career. "I saw this as an opportunity to sign one of the great Patriots for the rest of his career."

Bledsoe was scheduled to make $7.6-million this season, but his contract would have counted for $9.8-million under the salary cap.

The new deal, which runs through the 2010 season, saves only about $1.5-million under this year's cap. But, unlike some other high-profile signings, the money is spread relatively evenly over the contract -- without a balloon payment that could require another restructuring in a few years.

The sides had been talking about a deal for almost a year. But the talks accelerated when Kraft decided the deal had to get signed soon if the Patriots were to take advantage of the salary cap savings in this year's free agent market.

Although the total value of $103-million was confirmed by both sides, it is a complex contract with annual salaries that depend on bonuses and team options. Bledsoe is guaranteed about $24-million over three years, but to cut him at that point the team would take such a salary cap hit that it is extremely unlikely.

In Bledsoe's second season, 1994, he threw an NFL-record 691 passes. He completed 400 for 4,555 yards. In 1995, he was the youngest quarterback to reach 10,000 yards.

He signed a seven-year, $42-million contract in 1995 and led the Patriots to the 1997 Super Bowl.

Last season he threw for 3,291 yards with 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. In his career, he has thrown for 29,257 yards and 164 touchdowns, with 136 interceptions and a completion percentage of 56.2.

BENGALS: Defensive tackle Tony Williams, a Vikings free agent, signed an $11-million, four-year deal. ... The club plans to meet today with defensive end Kenny Holmes, a Titans free agent. Holmes, an ex-Hurricane, has 22.5 sacks in four seasons. ... Ex-Redskins defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield met with his hometown team. The club also brought in quarterback Jon Kitna and center Evan Pilgrim. The Bengals are more than $14-million under the salary cap.

BRONCOS: Denver offered a three-year contract to tackle Ethan Brooks. Agent Robert McManus said he knows of no reason why his client won't accept. ... Tight end Dwayne Carswell surrendered to Pueblo, Colo. authorities after being sought on an assault charge involving his girlfriend. ... Cowboys defensive tackle Leon Lett met with team officials. He helped Dallas win three Super Bowls in the 1990s, but three drug-related suspensions in the past six seasons have hindered his value. The Broncos last year vowed to steer clear of players with questionable backgrounds.

BROWNS: Newly projected final costs of Cleveland Browns Stadium, which opened in 1999, are about 20 percent higher -- at $299.8-million -- than the original estimate.

EAGLES: The club's new training facility, $37-million NovaCare Complex, opened. It is located across from Veterans Stadium, and includes a weight room, 8-foot-high shower heads, meeting rooms for staff and players and a theater. As part of a partnership with NovaCare, the Eagles will have access to magnetic resonance imaging and X-ray machines in the company's on-site rehabilitation center.

TITANS: Tennessee agreed to a five-year contract with free-agent kicker Joe Nedney as a replacement for Al Del Greco, general manager Floyd Reese said. The Tennessean reported that the contract includes a signing bonus of about $1-million and salaries of about $1.2-million a year.

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