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Lee Rasizer, Rocky Mountain News
Running back Mike Anderson, the 2000 NFL Rookie of the Year, has requested his release from the Denver Broncos after the team proposed cutting his salary to the veteran minimum with incentives in order to create salary-cap room, the player's agent said Sunday.
David Canter, hired last week by Anderson, met with Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist on Saturday night. The session came after Anderson met several days earlier in Denver with coach Mike Shanahan, who presented Anderson with his options.
The Broncos are looking to pare at least $4.2 million off their salary cap before March 3 to conform with league guidelines but need more wiggle room financially for free agency and the draft. Releasing Anderson would wipe his scheduled $1.755 million base salary off the books and save $1.255 million in cap room. An incentive-based contract with a $535,000 veteran minimum salary would almost duplicate that savings.
That proposal officially has not been presented, though, only discussed, according to Canter.
"We're willing to listen to any situation. It's not dead in the water," he said. But Anderson would rather test free agency than accept any significant contract revision.
"I've spoken with my client, and he's made it clear he wants to see what else is out there because the Broncos have made it clear that there's a youth movement going on, and that youth movement doesn't have Mike Anderson as a priority," Canter said.
"There's also Clinton Portis, Quentin Griffin, Reuben Droughns and Ahmaad Galloway to consider in the backfield. And to do a contract with play-time, give-back money for a guy who would be going into training camp at No. 2 on the depth chart at both positions - maybe No. 3 at the running back position - is probably not the most intelligent thing to do, since Mike Anderson hasn't had much mileage in the last few years and has plenty of ability left."
The Broncos also are closing in on a restructured deal with tackle Matt Lepsis, according to a league source. The seven-year veteran has agreed to a reduction in base salary that will be converted to "not likely to be earned" incentives and save the team $1 million in cap room. Lepsis is scheduled to carry a $6.1 million cap figure next season.
That kind of news should be the norm the remainder of the month as teams try to get down to the maximum spending limit of about $80.5 million. Other Broncos players whose contracts could be altered include wide receiver Ed McCaffrey and left tackle Ephraim Salaam. Backup quarterback Steve Beuerlein either officially will retire or be released, which would save $1 million.
A report Sunday indicated the Broncos have decided to release Anderson, who switched primarily to fullback two seasons ago. Canter said he hasn't been told that.
"There wasn't a clear understanding of exactly what was going to be done if he refused the pay cut," Canter said.
Releasing Anderson could prove risky in the short term. Fullback Droughns is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. Should Anderson depart before Droughns signs, it would provide Droughns additional leverage in negotiations.
If released, Anderson would enter perhaps one of the thinnest positions on the open market. Duce Staley of Philadelphia and Charlie Garner of Oakland head the list of available running backs.
"I would be shocked if most teams don't view him as an every-down back that's an upgrade," Canter said of Anderson.
Anderson was one of the most compelling stories in the NFL in 2000, when he was named the league's top offensive rookie as a 27-year-old fresh out of the University of Utah and a U.S. Marine assignment in Mogadishu, Somalia.
His chance came after Olandis Gary and Terrell Davis were injured, and he responded by posting a then-franchise record for a first-year player, with 1,487 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. But after the 2001 season, he accepted his position switch to become primarily a blocker. Anderson's carries have declined in each of the past three years - from 175 in 2001 to 84 in 2002 to 70 last season - and he has gained only 1,321 yards since that stellar rookie campaign.
Last season, he was given a four-game league suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy when he tested positive for trace amounts of marijuana he claimed came through secondhand smoke. But Broncos officials have insisted since then that they have no character concerns about Anderson.
"It was made clear by the Broncos, if Mike wants to come back, he's always welcome," Canter said.
Updated on Monday, Feb 23, 2004 5:13 am EST
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