INSIDE THE NFL
Wide receiver Peerless Price has failed to live up to the seven-year, $42 million contract he got in 2003.
By MARK GAUGHAN
Peerless Price's future with the Atlanta Falcons might depend on what Falcons coach Jim Mora wants to do with his safety position.
Price is at risk of being cut because he has failed to live up to the seven-year, $42 million contract he got in 2003. Price had just 45 catches for 575 yards last year and has failed to establish much of a connection on the field with quarterback Michael Vick. His catch total ranked 66th in the league. The year before, he had 64 catches, still well below the 94 he had for the Buffalo Bills in 2002.
The Falcons would save a little more than $2 million on the cap this year by cutting him. That's the amount of his base salary. However, they would take a $5.7 million salary cap hit next year because the prorated remainder of his $10 million signing bonus from 2003 would be accelerated.
The Falcons might decide it's worth it to take that future hit on the cap if they can add a veteran at a position of need. Ex-Bill Keion Carpenter is at the top of the depth chart at strong safety, and the Falcons would be interested in upgrading the position. If a safety Mora likes gets cut in the coming weeks, that could push Price out the door. If not, Price probably will survive for one more season.
There's a good chance Tennessee will release veteran safety Lance Schulters this month to save $2.7 million against the cap. Schulters might be a player the Falcons covet.
Price wants to stay and get another shot to prove himself in Atlanta.
"I like playing with Mike Vick, all my receivers, everybody on this team, guys I've formed relationships with, I've bonded with," he told reporters in Atlanta last week. "I'd be a fool to say I don't want to be here, but whatever happens, happens.
"Personally, I want to be here to prove people wrong. People don't know what I can do. They judge you off what happened in the past. They don't go back to the year before that or the year before that. It's what have you done for me lately."
The Falcons drafted wide receivers Michael Jenkins and Roddy White in the first round the past two seasons. Jenkins, who had seven receptions as a rookie, has made a large "spike" in his play on the practice field, Mora said, and has been working at flanker behind Price. White has looked good enough for coaches to proclaim he could be a factor much sooner than initially projected.
Price said he doesn't see that as writing on the wall.
"I view it as the Atlanta Falcons organization doing what they feel they need to do to make this team better," Price said.
Price had just two catches in the Falcons' NFC title game loss at Philadelphia, and Vick barely looked his way the entire afternoon.
Last year of deal
The Bills have three starters scheduled to become free agents after the season. They are cornerback Nate Clements, center Trey Teague and fullback Daimon Shelton. The others entering the last year of their contracts who will become unrestricted free agents are: Ron Edwards, Josh Reed, Ryan Denney, Kevin Thomas, Justin Bannan, Joe Burns, Jon Dorenbos and Lawrence Smith. Travis Henry also has a year to go. And Eric Moulds' contract will have to be revised again for him to return after this year.
Little progress was made at the recent owners meetings on the question of greater sharing of revenue by NFL teams. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue made references to a "blended rate" of sharing local revenues, perhaps 80 percent to the team that generates the revenue and 20 percent shared by other clubs. Look for the owners ultimately to agree to some sharing of the local revenues. The question is the percentage. Will it be significant? It looks like it will take awhile to come to an agreement on the numbers.
Rusty is a hit
Former Bills strength and conditioning coach Rusty Jones, gobbled up by Chicago as soon as his contract ran out in Buffalo, has made a good first impression with the Bears.
After suffering through a season of injuries, the Bears hired Jones as their strength and conditioning coach.
"His work with nutrition is unbelievable," Bears veteran safety Mike Brown said. "Everyone can tell the difference in their bodies in the weeks we've been working with him."
"I do whatever Rusty tells me," Brian Urlacher said. "I'm doing stuff now for my legs, hamstring curls, different stuff for specific muscles that I've never heard of."
The Bears suffered through a slew of injuries last year and hope Jones will make a difference. Urlacher missed seven games with hamstring and leg injuries last year. Brown missed 14 with a torn Achilles tendon. Bears coach Lovie Smith was encouraged to hire Jones by friend Tony Dungy, the Colts coach, who knew of Jones through team President Bill Polian.
Jones had a great track record in Buffalo but moved on because Mike Mularkey brought long-time associate Brad Roll to the staff as strength coach when he was hired last year.
The other Drew
The Cowboys gave up a third-round draft pick and at least $7 million in guaranteed money to groom ex-baseball player Drew Henson as the team's quarterback of the future. They backed up that investment this offseason by having quarterbacks coach David Lee direct a change in Henson's throwing motion with daily teaching sessions and more than 5,000 passes. Henson will battle improving third-year player Tony Romo for the No. 2 job behind starter Drew Bledsoe.
Coach Bill Parcells said Romo knows the Cowboys' system a little better than Henson and will get an equal shot in training camp to win the backup job. Henson is a self-described "Star Wars" nerd and has all the action figures from the movie.
• Some readers have had difficulty sending an e-mail to Joe Ferguson via the link supplied in this space last week. Another link is at www.mdanderson.org
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• The Titans have tight end health problems. Titans starter Ben Troupe may miss much or all of preseason after breaking a bone in his foot. The injury is likely to affect him early in the season. It's an injury similar to one suffered in the past by Titans Jevon Kearse and Bo Schobel. Schobel missed three months with it last year. The healthy tight ends on the Titans roster are veteran Erron Kinney and rookies Ben Hall from Clemson and Jimmy St. Louis from Murray State.
• Jerry Rice did not want to ask Denver veteran Rod Smith to give up his No. 80 jersey, so the new Broncos receiver will wear No. 19.