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Tuesday, July 9
Bengals save cap money by releasing Scott

By Len Pasquarelli

In a move rumored for more than week, the Cincinnati Bengals on Tuesday released veteran wide receiver Darnay Scott. His release might enable the team to use the salary cap savings to extend the contracts of some of their younger stars.

Darnay Scott

The departure of Scott, one of the leading receivers in franchise history, follows closely the free-agent acquisition of seven-year veteran wide receiver Michael Westbrook. Even before securing Westbrook's services, some Cincinnati officials, irked by Scott's absence from much of the offseason program, had suggested the team release him.

The addition of Westbrook, though, all but guaranteed Scott would be jettisoned. The club waited until Westbrook officially signed his three-year, $4.5 million contract early Tuesday before releasing Scott, and without asking him to accept a pay cut.

Cincinnati will realize a salary cap savings of $3.2 million on Scott's contract. He was scheduled to earn a base salary of $2.55 million and an offseason workout bonus of $150,000, along with a $500,000 roster bonus due on Sept. 1. The Bengals still must carry a cap charge of $700,000, as the final prorated share of the $3.5 million signing bonus he received when he signed a five-year, $14.5 million contract in 1998.

In essence, the Bengals swapped Westbrook's cap number for that of Scott, and will save about $2 million in the exchange.

Cincinnati plans to use part of that savings to attempt to sign linebackers Takeo Spikes and Brian Simmons, both of whom are eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring, to contract extensions. Preliminary discussions have begun with the agents for both of the four-year veteran defenders.

"They're going to do what they have to do," Scott said last week of his situation. "But as it gets closer to camp, they'll have to do something pretty quickly, right?"

Scott, 30, insisted that he wanted to return to the Bengals for a ninth season. But sources in the league claimed that Scott's preference was to be released. It will be difficult for him to earn the $3.2 million he was due this year from Cincinnati, but there should be a market for such a proven receiver, one who still possesses good deep speed.

After missing the entire 2000 campaign with a broken leg, Scott returned in 2001 and he started 15 of 16 games, posting 57 catches for 819 yards but only two touchdowns. He complained of some pain in his left leg earlier this spring and then simply skipped most of the offseason workouts, explaining that he was doing his conditioning at home. Such an approach did not sit well with team officials and coaches.

In fact, Scott will officially be released for having failed a physical, agent Rocky Arceneaux said. But the veteran receiver did not take a so-called "exit physical," and the Bengals are using that status only because of the shin pains he suffered through earlier in the spring.

By releasing Scott, the Bengals are further endorsing a young wide receiver corps, one the coaches claim has made great strides this spring. Westbrook assumes the role of the elder statesman to a group that includes third-year veterans Peter Warrick, Ron Dugans and Danny Farmer and second-year pros Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Cincinnati will likely carry six wide receivers on the regular-season roster, as it did in 2001 because of the multiple-wideout sets favored by coordinator Bob Bratkowski, and that didn't leave room for Scott and Westbrook. Receivers coach Steve Mooshagian said last week he did not want to sacrifice any of the youngsters at this time.

"The handwriting was on the wall," said Arceneaux.

The team's second-round choice in the 1994 draft, Scott played his entire career with the Bengals and departs as the fourth-leading receiver in club history. He appeared in 109 games and started 104 of them, and had 386 catches for 5,975 yards and 36 touchdowns.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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