Vikings let QB Johnson go
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
MINNEAPOLIS — In a long-expected move, the Minnesota Vikings released quarterback Brad Johnson on Wednesday and made the 15-year veteran an unrestricted free agent.
Tarvaris Jackson, who started the final two games of last season as a rookie, and Brooks Bollinger are the only quarterbacks remaining on the roster.
After the Vikings had recurring problems on offense and finished 6-10, coach Brad Childress ruled Johnson out of the running for the job in 2007 and declared the position an open competition between Jackson and Bollinger. At the time, Childress indicated he was confident in finding a starter between them.
At the NFL's scouting combine last week, however, Childress acknowledged that he spoke with Jackson about the chance that Minnesota could use the seventh overall draft pick on a quarterback — or perhaps in a later round. Notre Dame's Brady Quinn might be available when the Vikings are up at No. 7.
The league's free-agent signing period opens Friday, but the team has all but eliminated — at least publicly — the possibility of pursuing a quarterback through that avenue. They have plenty of other positions in need of an upgrade.
Chicago signed coach Lovie Smith to a four-year contract extension through the 2011 season. The Bears also announced that they signed general manager Jerry Angelo to a contract extension through the 2013 season.
The team will hold a news conference today, and had no further comment Wednesday night.
Running back Jamal Lewis, the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year in 2003, was cut by Baltimore.
General manager Ozzie Newsome said the team still hoped to re-sign him.
Lewis ran for 2,066 yards in 2003, the second-highest total in NFL history. His numbers slipped after that — his 1,132 yards last season were his most since then, although he averaged just 3.6 yards per carry
Lewis, 27, spent the 2005 offseason serving time in prison after a guilty plea to using a cell phone to set up a drug buy. He also has had ankle problems.
The Ravens' first pick in the 2000 draft, Lewis was due a $5 million roster bonus on March 3 along with a $5 million base salary for the 2007 season. The Ravens have spent the last week negotiating with Mitch Frankel, his agent for a deal that would be more cap friendly.
Linebacker Brian Simmons was released Wednesday by the Cincinnati Bengals, a surprising move by a team trying to improve one of the NFL's worst defenses while emphasizing character in the locker room.
Simmons, 31, has spent his entire nine-year career with the Bengals, who made him a first-round draft pick in 1998. He had two years left on his contract for $7 million.
Coach Marvin Lewis said the decision came down to the money.
"This was not an easy decision to make," he said in a statement. "Brian has been a fine player on the field, and he has been a great example to all of our players as a team leader and a citizen."
"But a new NFL year is about to begin with the start of free agency, and this allows us to best position our team under the salary cap to move forward for 2007. It will afford us options for signing other players who are a better overall fit, given the strengths and needs of our current roster."
The Bengals didn't attempt to renegotiate Simmons' contract, agent Jerrold Colton said.
"It is somewhat of a surprise," Colton said. "Brian has been a very important, long-standing part of the Cincinnati Bengals and is still performing at a top level."
The defense has been the Bengals' biggest shortcoming during Lewis' four seasons, but Simmons has been one of their most dependable and versatile linebackers. He led the team in tackles in 1999 and finished second six times.
He missed five games last season because of a strained neck, but finished fourth on the team in tackles. He played both middle and outside linebacker, helping the team get through the loss of middle linebacker Odell Thurman.
Thurman, one of nine Bengals arrested in a nine-month span, was suspended for all of last season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He has yet to be reinstated by the league.
Last week, Thurman pleaded no contest to a drunken driving charge and said he was undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse.
Colton recently got an indication from the Bengals that they were considering letting Simmons go.
"When I spoke to them recently, there was hesitation," Colton said. "I didn't necessarily get a firm commitment."
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