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Bledsoe, Horn, Porter Let Go In Pre-Free Agency Cuts

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Joe Horn isn't leaving New Orleans quietly.

On a day when many former marquee players _ Joey Porter, Drew Bledsoe, Keenan McCardell _ were released with little fanfare, Horn was upset, and vocal about it.

The veteran wide receiver criticized the Saints for noting wanting him around Thursday just as free agency was about to begin.

``Right now it's going around that (the Saints) wanted to restructure my contract and I asked to be released, but this has nothing to do with money,'' Horn told The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer. ``I wanted to retire as a Saint. I've been through hell and back for that city and that organization. If I wanted out of New Orleans that bad, I would have just kept my mouth shut and let them move the team to San Antonio.

``I just don't think Sean Payton wanted me back. I asked to be released because I felt betrayed by a head coach who wanted to prove he could win without Joe Horn.''

Horn, who turned 35 in January, missed the Saints' last four regular-season games in 2006 and both playoff games because of a groin injury. He had 37 catches for 679 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season.

In May 2005, Horn signed a six-year extension that would have paid him about $42 million for the life of the contract. Next season, he was to be paid about $4.45 million and receive a $1 million roster bonus later this month.

Payton said it was difficult to release one of his team's gamebreakers, but the Saints are loaded offensively even without Horn.

``Joe's numbers speak for themselves, and throughout his career here he has been everything an NFL player should be in the community,'' Payton said. ``He holds a special place to our fans because of his involvement in the city and his passion on the field. Decisions of this type aren't easy, and we understand his desire to see what his value may be with other teams.''

Porter, a mainstay when the Steelers won the 2005 NFL championship, also is outspoken. And, like Horn, unemployed for the time being.

The outside linebacker and sacks specialist was signed through 2007. He said there were no hard feelings.

``The organization has always been good to me,'' Porter said. ``It was a great run in Pittsburgh. I have no problem with them at all. I think it was a tough decision that they had to make, and it was one they had to make and they did it in the right way.''

Bledsoe's departure was a foregone conclusion when Tony Romo not only took his job as Dallas quarterback, but made the Pro Bowl and guided the Cowboys into the playoffs.

``I spoke with Drew today and told him that this was primarily a cap decision and that the door was very much open for him being a part of our future,'' Jones said. ``Drew has been a solid leader for our team and a true professional both on and off the field.''

The 1993 first overall draft pick almost certainly will wind up as a backup QB somewhere.

Wide receiver McCardell, who turned 37 in January, was released by San Diego. He had 36 catches last year, his 15th in the NFL, and is ninth on the NFL's all-time list with 861 catches.

``The way we evaluate players, you're a Charger one year at a time,'' general manager A.J. Smith said. ``You're judged off the field, on the field, production and work ethic.''

San Diego also let go two troubled players: linebacker Steve Foley, who missed the season after being shot by a policeman, and safety Terrence Kiel, who pleaded guilty last month to felony and misdemeanor drug charges for shipping codeine-based cough syrup to Texas.

_San Francisco waived receiver Antonio Bryant, just one season after signing him to a lucrative four-year, free-agent contract. Bryant caught 40 passes for a team-leading 733 yards last season, but repeatedly ran afoul of coach Mike Nolan's disciplinary standards.

Bryant was arrested in November after a wild escapade in his orange Lamborghini, and he later angered Nolan for being late to a team meeting. Bryant ended last season midway through a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

But 35-year-old defensive lineman Bryant Young, the last member of the San Francisco 49ers from the Super Bowl years, said he will return for another season. Young was a rookie on the team that won the title after the 1994 season.

_Minnesota released three former starters: cornerback Fred Smoot, tight end Jermaine Wiggins and tackle Mike Rosenthal.

_Mike Alstott, the six-time Pro Bowl fullback who considered retirement after each of the past two seasons, signed a one-year contract with Tampa Bay.

_The New York Jets locked up receiver Jerrico Cotchery on a long-term deal.

_Giants center Shaun O'Hara took himself out of the free-agent market on Thursday night, signing a multiyear contract. Earlier, starting safety Gibril Wilson and two other restricted free agents were tendered offers.

_Seattle tendered offers to six restricted free agents, including offensive tackle Sean Locklear, receiver D.J. Hackett and defensive back Jordan Babineaux.

_Detroit re-signed linebacker Alex Lewis to a three-year contract.

Detroit and Denver agreed to a deal that will send cornerback Dre' Bly to the Broncos for offensive tackle George Foster, running back Tatum Bell and a fifth-round draft pick. The deal, which wouldn't become official until Friday, when the free-agent period starts, was confirmed by someone with knowledge of the deal who asked to remain anonymous because it had not yet been finalized.

Jacksonville's oft-injured running back Fred Taylor extended his contract with Jacksonville through 2010.

``I always wanted to finish my career in Jacksonville,'' Taylor said. ``It's rare that you see guys stick with one team. ... I'm extremely happy. I'm not just saying that. The most impressive thing about it all is I get to retire in Jacksonville.''

Agent Drew Rosenhaus said the four-year deal totaled $23 million.

Carolina got under the $109 million cap by renegotiating the contracts of quarterback Jake Delhomme, and defensive end Mike Rucker and linebacker Dan Morgan.
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