NFL clubs began cutting rosters Wednesday to get under the salary cap as owners prepared to meet today in New York to explore last-minute possibilities for avoiding a labor confrontation with the players' union.
Miami cornerback Sam Madison, Buffalo safety Lawyer Milloy and Denver running back Mike Anderson were among cuts in preparation for the start of free agency on Friday.
Madison spent his first nine seasons in Miami, becoming the first Dolphins cornerback to make the Pro Bowl. He had recently offered to take a pay cut to stay with the team, but the Dolphins declined the offer. Madison also recently had his agent ask the Dolphins to cut him in hopes of making more money with another team.
The Dolphins also cut backup cornerback Reggie Howard, left tackle Damion McIntosh and strong safety Tebucky Jones.
"It's that time of the year where all teams are involved in making some, to a degree, painful decisions," said Buffalo general manager Marv Levy, who also waived defensive tackle Sam Adams and tight end Mark Campbell.
Complicating matters is the lack of a collective bargaining agreement past 2007. NFL owners are looking to reach an agreement with the players' union that could add $10-million to $15-million to a 2006 salary cap that currently is $94.5-million.
The Broncos and Carolina Panthers, among other teams, aren't waiting for the news.
Denver will save at least $10.6-million by cutting Anderson, defensive end Trevor Pryce and promising tight end Jeb Putzier.
Anderson led the team in rushing last year with 1,014 yards, but with Tatum Bell and Ron Dayne also in a crowded backfield, he became expendable.
The Panthers trimmed about $4-million by releasing running back Stephen Davis, defensive tackle Brentson Buckner and kick returner Rod Smart.
Davis rushed for a team-record 1,444 yards rushing in 2003. But he missed most of last season with a knee injury that led to microfracture surgery and put his career in doubt.
Looking to avoid releasing players, some teams are trying to restructure the contracts for veterans.
Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell agreed in principle to restructure his, pending the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.
Indianapolis linebacker Gary Brackett, who led the team in tackles, agreed to a multiyear deal while tight end Ben Utecht and offensive guard Ryan Lilja were offered new contracts.
The NFL extended the deadline for teams to terminate contracts and request waivers on players six hours, from 4 p.m. today to 10 p.m.