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Steelers eye new kicker

Barring an unexpected breakdown in contract negotiations, the Pittsburgh Steelers will switch kickers today, declining to match a restricted free-agent offer sheet signed by incumbent Kris Brown last week and replacing him with unrestricted veteran Todd Peterson.

ESPN.com reported that the Steelers and Peterson are close to a three-year agreement, and the nine-year veteran flew into Pittsburgh on Sunday night to meet with coach Bill Cowher, take a physical exam and complete the deal.

The contract will be for three years and likely worth about $2.5-million. It will include a signing bonus of $450,000 and base salary of $650,000 for the 2002 season. In terms of salary-cap space, it will be worth $250,000 less than it would have cost the Steelers to match Brown's offer sheet from the expansion Houston Texans.

Peterson kicked for the Kansas City Chiefs the past two seasons.

Pittsburgh officials have until 4 p.m. today to either match the offer sheet or permit Brown to move on to the Texans but, with the activity surrounding Peterson in the past two days, it seems their decision already has been made.

The Steelers commenced negotiations Saturday with Peterson and agent Mike Moye and the two sides bargained again most of Sunday.

For signing Brown to a four-year, $4.7-million offer sheet as a restricted free agent, the Texans will have to compensate the Steelers with a seventh-round draft choice.

Peterson was originally seeking a four-year contract, but the Steelers held firm at three seasons, and the veteran kicker agreed to the shorter term. At this point in his career, Peterson, 32, said he wants to play for a team that has a viable chance to advance to the Super Bowl.

Steelers management was clearly split over whether to match the offer sheet Brown signed last week. If it had matched, it would have inherited the terms of the offer sheet, which includes a $1-million signing bonus.

MANLEY FOUND: Former defensive lineman Dexter Manley, who faces sentencing on drug charges, is being treated in a Houston hospital, his attorney said.

"Dexter is being treated for depression," attorney Jonathon Munier told KRIV-TV in Houston on Sunday night. "Dexter is doing what he needs to do after receiving a lot of counsel and a lot of support."

Munier declined to comment when contacted by the Associated Press.

An arrest warrant was issued for Manley after he failed to appear for a meeting with a probation officer on Thursday, one day after he was convicted on drug charges. Manley faces up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine when he is sentenced April 5.

Manley was stopped Jan. 10, 2001, when officers watched him leave a hotel room they were about to search. Police said Manley tried to swallow cocaine as they were attempting to arrest him.

Prosecutors said Manley was not the subject of the warrant and just happened to be there.

Drugs led to Manley's retirement from the Bucs in 1991 after a second failed drug test. Manley had previously failed a drug test in 1989 while playing for the Washington Redskins. He was suspended from the NFL and the next year joined Arizona.

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