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StL Today: Nothing's guaranteed in 'What Have You Done Lately?' League


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Nothing's guaranteed in 'What Have You Done Lately?' League


The National Football League can be a cold, hard place.

Except during training camp, of course. Then it's an extremely hot, hard place.

The NFL is the "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" League, owing to the dearth of guaranteed contracts. Most players could get cut tomorrow and never collect another dime from their team.

Just ask Kurt Warner, who won't collect his scheduled $9.5 million salary from the Rams this season. Instead, he must negotiate a much smaller pact with the New York Giants to serve as mentor to top draft pick Eli Manning.

Just ask former Rams running back Trung Canidate, who led the Washington Redskins with 600 yards last season. His lingering foot injury, combined with the arrival of workhorse back Clinton Portis from Denver, made him expendable.

Once again, June's arrival has signaled the demise of many once-coveted players. June 1 is a magical day in the NFL, the time when teams can whack high-paid players and spread their salary cap hit over a couple of seasons.

The Rams created $4.85 million in cap room by trimming Warner. The Redskins created $915,000 in cap space by clipping Canidate.

(By the way, your cyber-correspondent is sick of talking about the salary cap. Every time somebody wants to chat about Warner, I'm forced to talk about real dollars versus cap dollars and how bonuses are pro-rated over the length of the contract, although many players never see the end of their contract . . . it all makes my head spin. I got into sportswriting because I couldn't do story problems in math. And then the NFL came up with this stuff. Geesh.)

Warner is a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player and a Super Bowl MVP as well. And yet he was told to hit the pavement Tuesday, as expected.

Speaking of Super Bowl heroes, the Tennessee Titans have been threatening to cashier running back Eddie George after June 1, unless he agrees to take a significant pay cut. In the near term, the club is hanging onto him while shopping for his replacement.

Redskins middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, a two-time Pro Bowl performer, may also be bound for the Giants. The last five years of his seven-year, $36.5 million contract went down the toilet Tuesday when Washington turned him loose.

Trotter started all 16 games for the Redskins last season, but he wasn't the same player after suffering a serious knee injury the year before. His exit saves the team $2.7 million toward the cap.

Defensive tackle Daryl Gardener knew the Broncos were going to axe him on June 1, so he went ahead and agreed to a four-year, $9.3 million contract with the Cincinnati Bengals. He will be joining his fourth team in four seasons.

Browns quarterback Tim Couch was supposed to be the Future of Football in Cleveland. But now he stands ready to get cut during the next few weeks, unless the Browns can find a team willing to trade for him. The Packers, on the prowl for Brett Favre's successor, have rekindled interest in the faded phenom.

If Packers defensive end Joe Johnson has recovered from his torn quad muscle, there ought to be several teams willing to take a look at him once Green Bay punches his bus ticket. We can think of at least one team with a crying need for a proven defensive end.

Speaking of the Packers, they may make a move on trimmed Steelers outside linebacker Jason Gildon -- that team's all-time sacks leader. Houston, Baltimore and Cleveland were also in the hunt for him.

Pittsburgh released him to avoid paying his $3.65 million salary for 2004 and lessen the franchise's salary cap hit for this season. "He's going to be playing," agent Peter Schaffer told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's very rare when you get the all-time sack leader for a team to hit the free-agent market in a league desperate for pass rushers."

But, hey, that's the NFL. Once a team believes you can't play up to the big bucks in your contract -- whoosh, you're gone.

Perhaps the NHL could come up with something like that to hold over the heads of players at playoff time . . .

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I like how when people talk about Dung being released, they say our leading rusher last season with 600 yards. I hate how they do that, it just makes us look bad really(granted our rushing game essentially was). He's at best a backup, and lets see how long before a team picks him up.

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