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Wednesday, February 26
Rudd one of three Browns vets released

CLEVELAND -- Just like he did with his helmet, Dwayne Rudd has been tossed by the Cleveland Browns.

Dwayne Rudd

The linebacker, who cost the Browns a win over Kansas City last season when he was penalized for throwing his helmet, was one of three veterans released Wednesday by Cleveland.

The Browns, who are $23 million over the projected $75 million salary cap, also released center Dave Wohlabaugh and cornerback Corey Fuller.

"These were tough decisions to make, but we had to make these moves in order to get under the salary cap,'' Browns coach Butch Davis said. "Each of these players has contributed significantly to the success of the Cleveland Browns, and we are not necessarily ruling out a return to the team for some of them in the future.''

The 27-year-old Rudd is unlikely to be one of them.

He struggled last season after being ridiculed nationally for his infamous boneheaded play in the Sept. 8 loss to the Chiefs.

Thinking the game had ended with his sack of Kansas City quarterback Trent Green, Rudd ripped off his helmet and flung it in celebration. He had his back turned to Green and didn't see the QB alertly flip the ball to a Chiefs lineman, who ran it into range for Kansas City to kick a game-winning field goal.

Rudd admitted to his mistake and never dodged a question about it. However, his play seemed to suffer and he was a nonfactor most of the season.

Rudd, who signed with the Browns as a free agent in 2001 and was to make $4 million, did make two big plays during Cleveland's last-second goal-line stand in a season finale win over Atlanta that helped put the Browns in the playoffs.

In other moves, the Browns retained defensive tackle Orpheus Roye by paying him a $1.25 million roster bonus.

In addition, they tendered contract offers to six players, including versatile running back Jamel White.

The Browns offered White the $1.318 million maximum, meaning the club can match any offer sheet for White and would receive a first-round draft choice if he signs elsewhere.

Cleveland has not yet made decisions on linebackers Jamir Miller and Earl Holmes.

Miller is due a $14 million roster bonus, and Holmes is owed a $1 million bonus by Friday or the pair will become free agents.

Miller reportedly met with Davis last week in a final attempt to get a long-term contract with the Browns.

However, Cleveland appears willing to allow the 29-year-old player to test the free agent market. Miller, a Pro Bowler in 2001, missed all of last season after tearing his Achilles' tendon.

The Browns also tendered contract offers to several restricted free agents: defensive lineman Alvin McKinley, guard Shaun O'Hara, cornerback Lewis Sanders and tight end Aaron Shea.

All four were tendered for $605,000. They can negotiate with other teams, but the Browns can match any offers.

Cleveland signed defensive lineman Felipe Claybrooks and safety Jason Moore to two-year contracts. Defensive back Michael Jameson was tendered for $300,000, giving the Browns exclusive rights to him.

Niners cut Stubblefield, Fiore to make cap
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers cut defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield and guard Dave Fiore on Wednesday to fit under the salary cap.

Stubblefield, the NFL's top defensive player for the 49ers in 1997, survived just two years in his second tenure with the team. His charisma and locker-room leadership didn't justify his $2.325 million salary for next season at his lower level of play.

"At times, Dana played very well,'' general manager Terry Donahue said. "At other times, he struggled, particularly toward the end of the season when his weight got a little higher on him. He was a leader in the locker room, though. He was a great acquisition for us.''

Stubblefield started 15 games last season, making 43 tackles and three sacks. The 49ers haven't decided how to replace him next to Pro Bowler Bryant Young on the defensive line, but veteran backup Jim Flanigan would be a likely candidate to step in.

"There are a number of really good defensive linemen in the draft,'' Donahue said. "We like (second-year pro) Josh Shaw, too, and we've got Jim Flanigan under contract. There are also a number of good tackles out there on the free agent market.''

The 49ers, once the poster children for short-term excess and long-term salary cap woes, were a mere $6 million over the cap this season. The 49ers' cuts and salary restructurings apparently put the team several million dollars below the cap, though Donahue said he doesn't expect the 49ers to be big players in the free agent market.

San Francisco cut linebacker Alex Lincoln and defensive back Anthony Parker earlier in the week. The Niners also saved $8 million by restructuring the contracts of quarterback Jeff Garcia, center Jeremy Newberry, defensive end Andre Carter, tackle Scott Gragg, safety Tony Parrish, fullback Fred Beasley and safety Zack Bronson.

Fiore was a three-year starter for the 49ers until he missed all but three games last season with torn ligaments in his right knee. He was due to make $2.5 million next season, including a $500,000 roster bonus that was due on Friday.

The 49ers also tendered contract offers to three other restricted free agents: long snapper Brian Jennings, backup quarterback Tim Rattay and kick returner Jimmy Williams.

Dolphins release Ward, Russell
The Miami Dolphins released receiver Dedric Ward and linebacker Twan Russell, along with three others Wednesday.

Ward and Russell were the only players released who played with the team last season.

Ward appeared in all 16 games for the Dolphins and started one game in 2002, making 19 catches for 172 yards. Russell appeared in only three games and recorded no tackles before a knee injury ended his season on Nov. 13.

The Dolphins also waived guards James Wagstaff and Jim Bundren and wide receiver Joey Getherall. Wagstaff had been on the Dolphins' reserve/non-football injury list since June when he injured his left hand in an April automobile accident.

Cowboys part ways with Rocket
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys released oft-injured veteran wide receiver Raghib "Rocket'' Ismail on Wednesday, one day before the start of free agency.

Ismail, 33, was scheduled to receive a base salary of $4 million in the fifth year of his seven-year contract. By releasing him, the Cowboys will add $1.9 million to their salary cap, giving them a total of almost $10 million.

According to the Cowboys' Web site, the team has not closed the door on signing him to a minimum contract later in the spring.

Ismail suffered a season-ending injury during training camp last year in an awkward collision with linebacker Dat Nguyen. Ismail underwent surgery to have a bulging disk between his fifth and sixth vertebrae removed and then had the two vertebrae fused. He also missed games during the 2000 and 2001 seasons because of injury.

Colts release four, including OL Jackson
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts released four players Wednesday, including occasional starting offensive lineman Waverly Jackson, while continuing to negotiate with starting center Jeff Saturday.

Also released were three backups: defensive backs Jermaine Hampton and Joe Walker and center Curt McGill.

Jackson's release will give the Colts more room under the $74.8 million salary cap. His cap number this year was expected to be about $1.6 million.

Jackson had been the Colts' most versatile linemen, starting twice at right tackle and twice at left guard last season, twice at right tackle in 1998 and all 16 games in 1999 at right guard.

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