It wasn’t long ago that June 1 was a dreaded day for high-salaried NFL veterans. Teams could cut players after that date, and only that year’s prorated share of the contract’s signing bonus would count against the salary cap until the following year.
Once the players were cut, a valuable secondary free agent market would open. Let go by Minnesota in 1995, running back Terry Allen set Washington’s season rushing record a year later. Defensive end Marco Coleman and fullback Larry Centers, June 1 cuts in 1999, were key cogs in the Redskins’ surprising NFC East title that season.
The Redskins would like to forget how little they got from June 2000 signees Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jeff George and Mark Carrier, whose failures have symbolized the excesses of the Dan Snyder regime.
Teams have smartened up since, managing the cap better and preferring to cut their losses before the start of free agency in March or at least after April’s college draft. And last year’s extension of the collective bargaining agreement with the players association tweaked the rules so that teams can cut two players before June 1 each year and have them count as post-June 1 cuts.
“Teams are so in tune with the salary cap to have much movement on June 1,” Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “I don’t think we’ll see much happening around the league.”
So today should be almost like any other day in the quiet month of June in the NFL. Indianapolis might cut defensive tackle Corey Simon, who missed all of last year with an undisclosed medical condition, if he and the Colts privately settled his grievance.
Other than that, teams are in such good shape against the cap — which increased significantly the past two years — that players like cornerbacks Deltha O’Neal of Cincinnati and Jerametrius Butler of St. Louis figure to survive at least into preseason. It’s hard to imagine anyone getting too excited about Arizona cutting defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy, guard Milford Brown or fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo. Daunte Culpepper should remain in Miami — unless (or until) fellow quarterback Trent Green finally joins the Dolphins.
In the dumps in Big D — Terrell Owens is happy Bill Parcells is no longer in Dallas. Running back Julius Jones also is smiling now that the grumpy coach has retired, perhaps for good.
But all is not copacetic at Valley Ranch. Ninth-year veteran Greg Ellis, easily the longest-tenured Cowboys player, is feeling disrespected despite public praise from new coach Wade Phillips. Ellis, an outside linebacker who will be 32 in August and has three years left on his contract, wants an extension. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones won’t even discuss it.
“A contract extension says you are our guy and we want you here,” Ellis told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It sets it straight with everybody. I haven’t talked to Jerry about it, and I’m not going to. But it’s understood, and Jerry knows it. Jerry should do something.”
Ellis is even more frustrated because he accepted a relatively small $4.2 million signing bonus in 2003 rather than test the market.
“I did it because I’m a team guy and this is where I wanted to be,” Ellis said. “I know Bill sold Jerry on me not getting a $10 million signing bonus. I go for the $4 million, and then things changed.”
It didn’t help that the Cowboys used their first-round choices the past three drafts on defensive ends DeMarcus Ware and Marcus Spears and outside linebackers Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Spencer.
“It’s been a slap in the face,” Ellis said.