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A lot of selling, not much buying at NFL meetings

Posted: Sunday March 17, 2002 3:58 PM
  Michael Strahan Michael Strahan and the Giants broke off talks this week on extending his contract, which will be in its last year in 2003. Al Bello/Getty Images

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- An agent approached Brian Billick Sunday and began talking to the Baltimore head coach about a player he represents.

"There's nothing I can do about it," Billick told him. "You know how the system works. My hands are tied."

That's a common refrain as the NFL's annual meetings begin -- the buyers (teams) would like to buy, but they have no cap room to spend on what the players (or their agents) are selling.

The meetings themselves are liable to be short on developments -- instant replay was put in for three years a year ago, so there will be no major discussion on the system for the first time in two decades.

The major debate, instead, may be over amending the "tuck rule" -- whether a fumble occurs when a quarterback trying to pass has tucked the ball away.

That emerged from the play last season that helped New England on its way to a Super Bowl title. On a game-tying drive against Oakland in the AFC playoffs, referee Walt Coleman first ruled that the Patriots' Tom Brady had fumbled the ball, then reversed himself on replay because the ball had not been tucked away.

But even that rule isn't likely to be modified much -- the competition committee, which has discussed it, is divided on what to change and may not recommend anything at all.

So much of the talk Sunday was about a player who isn't a free agent and may never be -- Michael Strahan of the Giants, who set an NFL sack record last season and was voted defensive player of the year.

Strahan and the Giants broke off talks this week on extending his contract, which will be in its last year in 2003, and Strahan said Saturday that he expected to be with another team for that season.

New York is one of many teams -- perhaps as many as two-thirds of the 32 -- that has very little room on the salary cap and had hoped to make more by extending Strahan's contract.

Baltimore, which beat the Giants in the 2001 Super Bowl, is in even worse shape -- it's already lost nearly half its starters from that game because it couldn't afford to keep them all.

The Giants also have broken off extension talks with quarterback Kerry Collins. But New York general manager Ernie Accorsi said Sunday that the door is still open to negotiations with both Strahan and Collins. Strahan, he noted will count more than $11 million this year against the Giants' salary cap -- about 15 percent of the $71.1 million.

Asked whether he was worried about losing his star defender, Accorsi said there's still a year to go before Strahan becomes a free agent.

"A lot of things will happen before next March 1," he said. "There are minicamps, training camp, the season. A lot of things can happen."


 
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