Chargers will retain running back Sproles
SAN DIEGO — Speedy little Darren Sproles is staying with the San Diego Chargers, after all.
The Chargers placed the maximum first- and third-round tender on Sproles yesterday, one of two surprise moves in the hours before free agency began.
The Chargers also released tackle Jamal Williams, a 12-year veteran who has been the run-stuffing anchor of the defensive line. Williams sustained an arm injury in the 2009 season opener and missed the rest of the year. He'll turn 34 next month and also has a history of knee injuries.
Sproles was offered a contract for $7,283,000. If the five-year veteran signs an offer sheet with another team, San Diego would have the right to match the offer or receive first- and third-round draft picks as compensation for losing him.
FRANCISCO AMONG THOSE NOT TENDERED
The Indianapolis Colts would like to keep safeties Melvin Bullitt and Antoine Bethea around one more year, and they're still hoping to work out a deal with defensive captain Gary Brackett.
Former first-round pick Marlin Jackson wasn't as lucky yesterday.
Indy gave Bullitt a second-round tender, while Bethea was given a first-round tender. Jackson's agent, Mike Sullivan, confirmed in an e-mail that the Colts had not offered him a tender at all. That allows Jackson to become an unrestricted free agent this morning.
Jackson, Indy's first-round pick in 2005, finished the last two seasons on injured reserve, tearing the ACL in his left knee in early November and tearing the ACL in his right knee in 2008.
The Colts also decided not to offer contracts to cornerback Tim Jennings, safety Aaron Francisco, a Kahuku High and BYU alum, and backup offensive lineman Dan Federkeil. All three players will now become unrestricted free agents.
Bengals: Cincinnati released receiver Laveranues Coles yesterday, exactly one year after it signed him to a four-year deal hoping he could replace T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Coles had only 43 catches for 514 yards and a touchdown last season, when the Bengals' passing game was a big disappointment. The Bengals hoped that Coles could take over for Houshmandzadeh, their primary third-down receiver who left for Seattle.
Cardinals: As expected, Arizona released starting safety Antrel Rolle to avoid paying him the $4 million roster bonus and $8 million salary he is due.
In addition, Arizona tendered one-year qualifying contract offers to five players — wide receiver Steve Breaston, guard Deuce Lutui, center Lyle Sendlein, tight end Ben Patrick and nose tackle Gabe Watson.
Chiefs: Veteran linebacker Mike Vrabel, who would have become an unrestricted free agent, signed a contract extention with Kansas City. No details were released on the deal announced yesterday.
The 13-year veteran started 14 games for the Chiefs in 2009, with 65 tackles and two sacks. He was acquired in 2009 from the New England Patriots, where he won three Super Bowl rings and went to the Pro Bowl in 2007.
Cowboys: Dallas gave restricted free agent Miles Austin the highest possible tender offer yesterday, requiring any team that signs the Pro Bowl receiver to give up a first- and third-round pick as compensation.
The move, which was expected, likely means Austin will return to Dallas next season. He's essentially been offered a one-year deal for $3.168 million, but team owner Jerry Jones has said he'll consider giving Austin a longer, more lucrative contract.
Jets: New York placed a first- and-third round tender on wide receiver Braylon Edwards, and tendered seven other restricted free agents yesterday.
Running back-kick returner Leon Washington and wide receiver Brad Smith received second-round tenders; backup quarterback Kellen Clemens received an original-round tender (second) as well as safety Eric Smith (third), former Hawai'i offensive tackle Wayne Hunter (third) and cornerback Drew Coleman (sixth).
Panthers: Carolina cut quarterback Jake Delhomme, just over a year after it gave him a lucrative contract extension only to watch him have his worst season as a pro. Agent Rick Smith confirmed the move late last night.
After committing six turnovers in a playoff loss to end the 2008 season, Delhomme had 18 interceptions last year before being sidelined for the final five games with a broken finger.
The Panthers still owe the 35-year-old Delhomme about $12.5 million in guaranteed money.
Redskins: Guard Randy Thomas, receiver Antwaan Randle El and kick returner Rock Cartwright were among 10 players cut by Washington on the eve of free agency.
Cornerback Fred Smoot, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, running back Ladell Betts and backup quarterback Todd Collins were among those released last night.
Late last night, center Casey Rabach agreed to a three-year, $12.3 million deal to re-sign with the Redskins. The 32-year-old Rabach has played five seasons with the Redskins and previously spent four with the Baltimore Ravens.
Saints: Charles Grant, a starting defensive end for most of the New Orleans Saints' first championship season, will be released by the only club for which he's played in his eight-year career.
Grant, 31, was drafted out of Georgia in 2002, one of New Orleans' two first-round choices that year.
He started all 16 regular-season games in 2009 and was credited with 53 tackles and 5 1/4 sacks. However, he tore his triceps in the last game of the regular season, a game with no playoff implications. He then sat out the playoffs as the Saints advanced and won their first Super Bowl.