Chargers reel in coveted free-agent DE Wiley
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
Highly coveted Buffalo free-agent defensive end Marcellus Wiley is off the market.
The San Diego Chargers held on to their front-runner status in the race for Wiley, agreeing to terms on a six-year, $40 million contract with him Sunday afternoon, agent Brad Blank said. The deal includes a $9 million signing bonus and a $500,000 base salary in 2001. Wiley's first-year cap number will be $2 million.
"Marcellus had certain expectations in terms of money and when he got what he wanted on that front, San Diego was his first choice," Blank said. "Marcellus grew up and lives in Los Angeles and the Chargers were the team he wanted to play for."
Wiley canceled a Monday visit to Oakland after reaching agreement with the Chargers. Cincinnati also was interested in having him visit, and Seattle canceled its scheduled meeting Wednesday, after the Seahawks signed John Randle on Saturday.
Wiley, 26, was considered the premier defensive end in free agency. He will sign the contract Monday in San Diego after taking a physical at the Chargers complex. On Friday, Blank said new Bills general manager Tom Donahoe was requesting that Buffalo get a final shot at matching or bettering any offers to Wiley. However, the salary-cap-challenged Bills determined they could not compete with San Diego's financial package.
Wiley also was attracted to San Diego because of his desire to play in a 4-3 defense, Blank said. Buffalo played a 3-4 for all four of Wiley's NFl seasons.
It is believed that the agreement with Wiley takes up a majority of San Diego's remaining room under the $67.4 million salary cap. Blank said that none of the other teams that were seriously pursuing Wiley has as much cap room as the Chargers.
Free-agent LB Rudd signs with Cleveland
Rudd's agent, Mitch Frankel, flew to Cleveland late Saturday afternoon for face-to-face negotiations with the Browns, and the two sides completed negotiations Sunday on a five-year, $23 million package that includes a $5.7 million signing bonus. Rudd plans to sign the deal later this week at his Florida home for state tax reasons.
Rudd, a four-year veteran, was initially pursuing a four-year deal with the Browns, but the two sides did not come to agreement until the fifth year was added.
The deal includes some salary escalators in the final year, Frankel said. Rudd's first-year base salary and workout bonus totals $550,000, making his 2001 salary-cap number a manageable $1.69 million.
Rudd visited Cleveland Friday and Saturday and was the Browns' top choice for their need at weakside linebacker. Rudd had a free-agent visit scheduled for Seattle on Sunday, but it was canceled in the wake of his closeness to an agreement with Cleveland, as well as the Seahawks signing of former Vikings defensive lineman John Randle on Saturday.
The Vikings had no hope of retaining Rudd this off-season and did not make a contract proposal.
Cleveland's new defensive coordinator, Foge Fazio, was Rudd's defensive coordinator during his first three seasons in Minnesota (1997-99). Fazio had Rudd atop his wish list at outside linebacker, backed up by Denver's John Mobley. But the Browns intensified their pursuit of Rudd on Friday when Mobley re-signed with the Broncos.
"He's really happy to be in Cleveland, and to be playing for Foge," Frankel said Sunday. "It's a class organization and Dwayne believe they are committed to winning."
Rudd played weakside linebacker in Minnesota from 1997-99, but was switched to the strong-side in 2000. He had a somewhat low-impact season in that role and is more naturally suited to play in open space, where he is free to flow to the ball.
Rudd was Minnesota's first-round draft choice out of Alabama in 1997, going 20th overall.
Free agent Minter re-signs with Panthers
Carolina free safety Mike Minter re-signed Sunday, receiving a five-year, $17 million contract that includes a $4 million signing bonus. The deal averages $3.4 million per season.
Minter was due in Cleveland on Sunday, but never made his first free-agent visit. Carolina made him their top free-agent priority and worked the deal Sunday afternoon before his scheduled trip to Ohio.