Star Safety Lynch Leaving the Buccaneers

Friday, March 12th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A little more than a year after helping the Buccaneers win the Super Bowl, John Lynch is through in Tampa Bay.

The star strong safety could not reach agreement with the team on a restructured contract. So the Bucs praised Lynch, then gave him permission to seek a new home.

``Everyone respects who he is and what he's brought to the game of football. But at this time we're going to move forward,'' Bucs general manager Bruce Allen said Thursday. ``We decided the best way to move forward is allow him to talk to other teams and find a home that would be best for him and his family.''

Lynch said any decision he makes on his NFL future will not be determined by money.

``I take great pride in the fact that in my career in the NFL, I have never and will never play for a contract,'' he said. ``Rather, any success I've had is the result of my play, my passion for the game I love, and the game I respect so much.''

Lynch, 32, is a five-time Pro Bowler. He's expected to draw interest from Indianapolis, where former Bucs coach Tony Dungy runs the Colts, and New York, where Herman Edwards, once the secondary coach in Tampa Bay, coaches the Jets.

Another Bucs defensive star, tackle Warren Sapp, hasn't received an offer from the team and plans to explore the marketplace.

Tampa Bay released five players and restructured the contracts of linebacker Derrick Brooks, cornerback Brian Kelly and offensive lineman Kerry Jenkins to get under the $80.6 million salary cap. The team has signed eight players in the past week, including running back Charlie Garner. It also is trying to trade wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who has worked on a deal with Dallas.

The Cowboys added defensive end Marcellus Wiley on Thursday, a week after being released by San Diego.

Once one of the NFL's best pass rushers, Wiley slumped with the Chargers. But he got $16 million over four years, including a $4.5 million signing bonus, from Dallas.

``My father beat it into my head that the Cowboys were the best and only team in the NFL,'' Wiley said of his dad being a Cowboys fan. ``They've won it all before and now they're a team on the rise with an opportunity to do it again. I just wanted to be part of that.''

He could be a big part if he recaptures his sack skills. Wiley comes off his worst season, when he had only three sacks. He had 13 in 2001, when he made the Pro Bowl.

Elsewhere Thursday:

_ Carolina released left tackle Todd Steussie, who played seven years for Minnesota and three for the Panthers, including the Super Bowl in February. Steussie had two years remaining on a five-year contract and was to count $5.8 million against this year's salary cap. By releasing him, the Panthers free up $1.3 million in cap room.

_ Safety Donovin Darius agreed to Jacksonville's tender offer of $4.6 million for one year. That was the minimum offer the Jaguars could make after they designated Darius their franchise player.

_ Denver signed 34-year-old defensive end Marco Coleman, who played last season for Philadelphia. He'll be asked to help replace Bertrand Berry, who signed with Arizona after getting 11 1/2 sacks for the Broncos last season. But Coleman had just a half-sack last season.

_ Pittsburgh, as expected, released running back Amos Zereoue, who began last season as a starter. He was made expendable when the team signed Duce Staley and re-signed Jerome Bettis.

The Steelers also released running back Dee Brown and allowed restricted free agent Rodney Bailey to go to New England, which signed the defensive end last week to $1.3 million offer sheet. In return, the Steelers get New England's sixth-round pick in April's draft.

_ New Orleans re-signed veteran running back Lamar Smith to a one-year contract. The Saints signed Smith in late November after injuries left them thin in the backfield. Smith rushed for 61 yards on 11 carries in the final four games of the season. He's a former 1,000-yard rusher with Miami.

_ Safety Tyrone Carter agreed to a one-year contract with the Vikings. Carter, who spent the first three years of his career with the Vikings, was released last week by the Jets, where he played for new Minnesota defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell.

_ Defensive tackle Paul Grasmanis signed a three-year contract to remain a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. Grasmanis, 29, appeared in two games last season before tearing his Achilles' tendon.

_ Center Cory Raymer signed a three-year, $3.1 million contract with the Redskins. Raymer returns to the Redskins after two seasons with San Diego. He's expected to compete with Lennie Friedman, who was re-signed last week, for the starting position.

_ Indianapolis re-signed quarterback Cory Sauter, guard Tupe Peko and linebacker Jim Nelson. Peko started all three playoff games at right guard.

_ The Packers re-signed linebacker Marcus Wilkins, a third-year pro who was a backup and a special teamer last season.