Dolphins sign wide receiver Ward from Jets
Updated: Wednesday April 18, 2001 10:37 PM
Ward's signing helps Miami alleviate pressure to take a receiver with its first-round draft pick, Spielman said. But he added the Dolphins still might opt for a receiver in the draft, which begins Saturday. Miami's first pick is No. 26 overall.
"It give us a little bit more leeway as far as not forcing us to take a position we might need," Spielman said. "This is a big signing for us. Bringing in him, we feel like we have a lot of quality receivers and any one of them can start.
"But if there's a receiver sitting in the draft and we feel comfortable that he's the best guy for this football team, there would be no hesitation on our part to do that."
Playing their first post-Dan Marino season, the Dolphins finally found a running game in Lamar Smith to go with stout defense and won the AFC East for first time since 1994. But first-year starting quarterback Jay Fiedler struggled after a late-season neck injury and was handcuffed without a playmaker in the receiving corps.
During the offseason, the Dolphins parted ways with Tony Martin and Bert Emanuel, two receivers who never fulfilled their deep-threat potential in Miami. The Dolphins likely will not re-sign free agents Leslie Shepherd and Lamar Thomas, either. O.J. McDuffie also remains a question mark with a torn tendon in his left big toe.
"This gives us insurance in case O.J. cannot go next year," Spielman said. "We're planning on O.J. being with us. But it's yet to be determined if he'll be at minicamp or what's going on just because of the health concern."
McDuffie, who caught a career-low 14 passes last season, accepted a pay cut of nearly $1.1 million in exchange for a guaranteed $1 million salary this season.
McDuffie's restructured contract allowed Miami to sign Ward, who started 16 games for the Jets last fall and had 54 receptions for 801 yards and three touchdowns.
The Dolphins also signed receiver James McKnight this offseason.
"With myself and James McKnight, hopefully we can provide a spark to that offense," Ward said. "With Lamar [Smith], they ran the ball very successfully and they were definitely tough to stop as a running team. But from a passing standpoint, you didn't see that explosiveness that they've had over previous years with Marino and some of the guys who were here before.
"There's no reason for me to believe that things can't get back to where they were at one time. I hope to be part of that."
Without restructuring another contract, Spielman said the Dolphins have only enough money under the salary cap to sign their draft picks. They still would like to re-sign left tackle Richmond Webb and safety Brock Marion.
Chargers acquire kicker Richey; re-sign QB Moreno
The 49ers did not match an offer sheet that Richey signed with the Chargers last week. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The signing spells the end of John Carney's 11-year run as San Diego's kicker. Carney, one of the NFL's most accurate kickers, is San Diego's career scoring leader with 1,076 points.
Although he made all 27 extra points last year, Carney made just 18 of 25 field goals and his kickoffs weren't as consistent.
Earlier this year, the Chargers pulled off the table a $4.5 million, five-year offer to Carney that included a $750,000 signing bonus and $500,000 salary for 2001.
Carney holds or shares nine team kicking records, and once held the NFL record with 29 straight field goals. He's made 263 of 325 field goals for an accuracy rate of 80.92 percent, fourth alltime.
Richey, 24, is entering his fourth NFL season. Last year, he led the 49ers with 88 points while hitting 43 of 45 PATs and 15 of 22 field goals. Over 48 career games, he has 284 points.
Also Wednesday, the Chargers re-signed restricted free agent quarterback Moses Moreno to a one-year deal. Terms were not released.
The 25-year-old Moreno is entering his third season with the Chargers. In the past two seasons, he completed 32 of 60 passes for 319 yards. He started Game 3 at Kansas City and Game 11 vs. Miami last season.
Steelers meet with Mitchell
Mitchell met Wednesday with director of football operations Kevin Colbert and head coach Bill Cowher and is expected to begin contract negotiations Thursday.
Colbert said Monday the Steelers might sign a veteran quarterback rather than draft a rookie for the second consecutive season. They drafted former Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin last year.
Mitchell is the only experienced quarterback the Steelers have brought in during the offseason.
If the 33-year-old Mitchell signs with the Steelers, he might not necessarily be the No. 2 quarterback. They plan to give Martin a chance to be Stewart's backup, which would leave either Mitchell or Kent Graham as the No. 3 quarterback.
Graham began last season as the starter, but was beaten out by Stewart after three games and barely played after that.
Graham had rotator cuff surgery in January and is not expected to resume throwing until next month. He is to paid $1.4 million this season.
Mitchell was 89-of-187 for three touchdowns and eight interceptions last season. He has played 11 NFL seasons, with Miami, Detroit, Baltimore and Cincinnati.
Saints say they plan to return to Thibodaux
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The New Orleans Saints have not yet signed a new deal with Nicholls State for this summer's training camp, but general manager Randy Mueller said it's just a matter of time.
"We're hopeful we can get something worked out to go back to Nicholls," Mueller said on Wednesday. "I think we're trading legal language and hopefully we can get it worked out in the next few weeks. Maybe even sooner than that."
The Saints switched their training camp from LaCrosse, Wis., to Thibodaux last season. Although there were predictions that the heat and humidity would leave the team exhausted before the season began, coach Jim Haslett said he thinks the weather actually strengthened the team.
The team also enjoyed working before larger crowds of fans than they ever drew in Wisconsin and being close enough to home to be able to spend their nights off with their families.
"I think everybody's intent was to go back there," Mueller said.
Bears agree to deals with S Whigham, CB Brady
Whigham, a 6-2, 210-pound safety, ranked second in special teams tackles for the New England Patriots last season. The seven-year veteran started four games for the Patriots and registered 28 tackles.
Whigham was named to the Pro Bowl in 1997 as the AFC's special teams player. He was picked in the fourth round of the 1994 draft by the Seattle Seahawks but was released after spending two weeks on the practice squad and signed with New England.
Brady, a cornerback, has not played since 1998 with the Baltimore Ravens. He tore his right ACL and sat out the following two seasons, undergoing reconstructive knee surgery in August 2000.
The 6-2, 195-pounder started 18 games in the 1996 and 1997 seasons, recording 16 special teams tackles over the final eight contests of the 1997 campaign for the Ravens.
Brady signed with the Cleveland Browns in 1995 as an undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin. After being released by the Browns, he signed with Saskatchewan of the Canadian Football League but returned to Cleveland in December 1995 and moved with the team to Baltimore in 1996.
In other news, the Bears announced that safety Tony Parrish underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and will be sidelined four to six weeks. He will miss the team's minicamp next week.
Bengals waive DT Jackson
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Defensive tackle Keith Jackson, who played five games in the Canadian Football League last season, was waived Wednesday by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Jackson signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent from Cheyney University last year. The Cowboys waived him on Aug. 22, and he played five games for the CFL's British Columbia Lions.
The Bengals signed him to their practice squad on Dec. 8.