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Busy Day of Pro Football Signings

February 19, 1998

Pro Bowl linebacker Jessie Armstead of the New York Giants was among a handful of players striking new deals Wednesday in the NFL.

Cornerbacks Jeff Burris of Buffalo and Doug Evans of Green Bay, meanwhile, came to terms with new teams, joining the ranks of the highest-paid defensive backs in the league. Burris signed with Indianapolis and Evans with Carolina.

In other re-signings, defensive end Jeff Lageman struck a new deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars while nose tackle Joel Steed agreed to new terms with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Also, the San Diego Chargers signed former Steelers’ left tackle John Jackson, the Detroit Lions signed defensive tackle Dan Owens from the Atlanta Falcons, and the Arizona Cardinals signed Chicago offensive tackle Jon Clark.

The Cardinals also resigned defensive lineman Brent Burnstein and fullback Cedric Smith.

Armstead, who had four years left on his contract following his first Pro Bowl season, was awarded a new five-year deal. Terms were not released, but the contract is believed to be worth about $15 million, which would make him one of the NFL’s highest-paid linebackers and among the top three wage earners on the Giants.

``It’s a one-of-a-kind thing,″ said Drew Rosenhaus, Armstead’s agent. ``I can’t recall another team tearing up a contract with four years left on it to reward a player for a Pro Bowl year. But he just outperformed his old contract.″

Evans’ five-year, $22.5 million contract includes a signing bonus of $7.5 million, which will put him among the NFL’s highest-paid cornerbacks. Dallas’ Deion Sanders earns $5 million annually and Atlanta’s Ray Buchanan earns a comparable amount.

Burris, a 1994 first-round draft pick by Buffalo who earned $647,500 last year, reportedly agreed to a $20 million, five-year contract with the Colts that included a $5 million signing bonus.

The Steelers, who have made a habit of losing players to free agency, re-signed Steed, the key to their defense, to a four-year, $17 million deal, fulfilling their top priority in free agency.

The Steelers, who lost more free agents than most teams the past few seasons while remaining competitive, lost two-time Pro Bowler Jackson to San Diego, which made several moves Wednesday.

Jackson’s six-year contract is reportedly worth $26 million, including a $5 million signing bonus.

The Chargers also extended a three-year contract offer to Chicago Bears quarterback Erik Kramer, and revealed they have offered a three-year contract to Jacksonville Jaguars running back Natrone Means.

``We’re really happy to have a day like this at the Chargers,″ said San Diego GM Bobby Beathard.

_ Lageman was one of eight Jaguars to become unrestricted free agents last week. Of those, tight end Rich Griffith has re-signed with the team, while fullback Ty Hallock has signed with the Chicago Bears.

_ Terms of Owens’ contract with Detroit were not disclosed. His signing comes a week after the Lions signed free agent linebacker Allen Aldridge of Denver and re-signed wide receiver Johnnie Morton and offensive tackle Ray Roberts.

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