Stewart headed to Chicago, Davis agrees to join Panthers

Friday, March 14th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LAKE FOREST, Illinois (AP) _ Kordell Stewart insists he still should be an NFL starting quarterback _ he'll get the chance to be one again in Chicago.

The Bears, who cut starter Jim Miller last month, signed Stewart to a two-year contract Thursday, one of the busier days in the 2-week-old free agency period. Stewart was 46-30 as a starter during his eight years in Pittsburgh, and twice led the Steelers to the American Football Conference title game.

He lost his job to Tommy Maddox last season, and his only substantial playing time came in victories over the Bengals and Jaguars when Maddox was hurt.

``We're just real happy we have an experienced veteran in the building. We needed to bring somebody in here to hit the ground running,'' Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said.

Stewart, released by the Steelers in February, has 13,328 career yards passing, completing 1,190 of 2,107 attempts with 70 touchdown passes and 72 interceptions.

The Carolina Panthers also made a big score, filling a hole at running back with Stephen Davis.

The former workhorse running back for Washington agreed to a five-year deal that also puts Davis, 29, near his childhood home in Columbia, S.C. Davis, released for salary cap reasons last month, was the Redskins' No. 3 career rusher with 5,790 yards, and the only player in franchise history to run for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. But his straight-ahead running style wasn't a good fit in coach Steve Spurrier's wide-open offense.

Davis' agent, David Canter, said Davis got a five-year deal worth $15.5 million, with a $2.5 million signing bonus.

``This is coming home for him,'' Canter said. ``He also feels part of a movement and he thinks he can be a catalyst. He wants to be the franchise back who carries them to the Super Bowl.''

An even more prominent running back spent the day meeting with the Arizona Cardinals _ Emmitt Smith, the NFL's career rushing leader. The talks were the first Smith has had with any team since being released Feb. 27 by Dallas, the only team he has played for in his 13-season career.

Smith ended the meeting saying he believes the long-downtrodden Cardinals are committed to winning.

``Right now I can say one thing about the Cardinals is I felt at home,'' Smith said. ``For some reason, coming out here to Arizona, I've always felt like being at home.''

Jacksonville, meanwhile, signed former Indianapolis linebacker Mike Peterson, who has been plagued by injuries the past two seasons. Peterson is also going back home _ he's from Gainesville and played at Florida.

The six-year, $20.4 million contract, which includes $5 million in guaranteed bonuses, is modest by most standards, especially those set by the Jaguars in their free-spending early years.

``This was a good move for us at this time,'' vice president of player personnel James Harris said. ``We got one of the better linebackers in the league.''

New Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio is a former NFL linebacker and a linebackers coach.

The New York Jets ensured they would get kick returner Chad Morton back by matching the $8 million, five-year contract proferred to him by Washington. New York offered Morton, who was second in the AFC in kickoff return average (26.0), an opportunity for more plays from scrimmage.

``He can catch the ball well, is a guy who is a tough matchup for linebackers and safeties,'' Jets general manager Terry Bradway said.

The Jets also are pondering whether to match an offer by the Redskins to their leading receiver, Laveranues Coles, that includes a $13 million signing bonus. They have until next Wednesday to decide.

Indianapolis signed wide receiver Brandon Stokley to a two-year, $2.9 million contract. Stokley spent the past few summers working with Peyton Manning at the quarterback's passing academy in Louisiana.

``I'm thrilled,'' Stokley said. ``Any receiver wants to play for one of the best quarterbacks in the league.''

In other moves, Cleveland re-signed safety Earl Little; Cincinnati signed tight end Reggie Kelly, who caught 14 passes for Atlanta last season; Miami signed cornerback Terrell Buckley; Detroit re-signed 39-year-old guard Ray Brown to a one-year contract; Baltimore re-signed right tackle Ethan Brooks to a two-year deal and also extended offers to former Ravens Orlando Brown and Jermaine Lewis; and Dallas signed linebacker Alshermond Singleton, who started for Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay last season.

Quarterback Todd Bouman was traded by Minnesota to New Orleans, which previously lost quarterback Jake Delhomme to Carolina in free agency. Bouman is entering his sixth NFL season and has started three games and played in six.

Singleton spent the first six years of his career with the Buccaneers. He was fifth in tackles for them last season with a career-high 89.

Buckley spent the last two seasons with the New England Patriots. He played for the Dolphins from 1995-99, intercepting 22 passes over those five seasons.

Orlando Brown brought a lawsuit against the NFL after referee Jeff Triplette threw his penalty flag and it struck Brown's right eye during a Dec. 19, 1999, game against Jacksonville. Brown was with Cleveland at the time.

He has not played since and was cut by the Browns in September 2000. At the time, he had a six-year, $27 million contract, from which he collected a $7.5 million signing bonus.