The Tennessee Titans may have done Darryll Lewis a favor on Sunday. They cut the veteran defensive back, making him one of the NFL’s most sought-after players, at least for a few days.
Lewis, whose has 25 interceptions over the last five years, was cut because he lost his starting job and the $2 million he’s due to make is too much to pay a nickel back. Six teams immediately called his agent with more to come.
Sunday was cutdown day in the NFL, with most teams getting down to the 53-man limit by getting rid of rookies and free agents who basically served as practice players.
Denver made a notable technical cut _ John Elway, who officially retired in April but was kept on the roster as insurance if he changed his mind and in a move to save salary cap money. And San Diego made a notable non-cut by keeping Ryan Leaf on the roster instead of placing him on injured reserve.
Lewis, a nine-year veteran, was beaten out for the starting job by second-year Samari Rolle and then cut in what looks like a difference of opinion between coach Jeff Fisher and Jeff Diamond, the new team president.
``Nowhere in this did we ever expect not to have Darryll back,″ Fisher said. ``I believe he can still play a number of years, if not as a starter, as a premier third-down nickel back.″
Lewis’ agent, Ken Zuckerman, said he had received calls from San Francisco, Dallas, San Diego, the New York Jets, Carolina and Buffalo as soon as they saw Lewis’ name on the waiver wire. He said his client would sign with the team that gave him the best chance to be a starter.
``I can’t be mad,″ Lewis said. ``I’m not the first guy to go through this.″
Leaf, whose may not be able to play until November after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder, could have been put on injured reserve, which would have required him to miss the entire season. Instead, the Chargers cut Craig Whelihan, who started last year when Leaf was benched, and will start the season with veterans Jim Harbaugh and Erik Kramer.
``It feels like I got drafted again,″ said Leaf, who had monumental problems both on and off the field after being the second overall pick in the 1998 draft. ``Now we get the perfect situation where I come into and you’ve got the two veteran quarterbacks there.″
Another casualty was former Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam, let go by the Raiders, who kept former New York Giant Tyrone Wheatley instead. Wheatley had been cut earlier in the preseason by Miami.
``We gave him a long look but Wheatley has really caught our eye over the last two weeks, both in practice and games. Special teams play also was a major factor,″ coach Jon Gruden said.
Among the other veterans released Sunday were: punter Louie Aguiar of Kansas City; linebacker James Francis, oft-injured offensive tackle Kevin Sargent and center Rod Payne, a third-round draft pick in 1997, by Cincinnati; eight-year running back Bernie Parmalee by Miami; kick returner Eric Metcalf by Baltimore; and 38-year-old long snapper Mike Morris by Minnesota, which also cut tight end Eric Moss, Randy’s older brother.
The Jets cut special teams player Corwin Brown, a favorite of coach Bill Parcells in New York and New England. New Orleans cut Danan Hughes, a free agent wide receiver who spent seven seasons with Kansas City.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, put wide receiver Lamar Thomas, a starter last season, on injured reserve. The New York Giants did the same with left guard Lance Scott, meaning Luke Petitgout, the team’s first-round draft choice, will start.
Arizona did the unusual by keeping both its kickers, Joe Nedney and Chris Jacke. The Cardinals hope to trade one to a team looking for a veteran placekicker.