Kevin Carter, whose falloff at defensive end was a reason for the decline of the St. Louis defense last season, was designated as the Rams' franchise player Thursday, a move that left him unhappy.
Aeneas Williams, Arizona's six-time Pro Bowl cornerback, also got the franchise tag.
But Darren Sharper, Green Bay's All-Pro safety, avoided getting that label by signing a $30 million, six-year deal with the Packers. The team indicated it would have made him the franchise player had he not re-signed.
Thursday was the final day teams could protect players by giving them franchise or transition tags. The franchise tag ensures a free agent will stay with a team unless a trade is worked out that usually includes two first-round draft choices; transition gives a player's old team right of first refusal and compensation.
"It's not free agency, that's for sure," Carter's agent, Harold Lewis said. "It's an honor on one hand to be labeled one of the best at your position. It's also a lot of money and it's all guaranteed, but Kevin would prefer to be an unrestricted free agent."
The move guarantees Carter $5.39 million next season, the average salary of the five best-paid defensive ends in the NFL. After failing to reach agreement on an extension last summer, Carter made $1.1 million last year, the final year of a six-year contract he signed as a first-round draft pick in 1995.
His discontent, expressed at length during training camp, showed in his play.
Carter led the NFL with 17 sacks in 1999 but slipped to 10 1/2 sacks last year and was benched for one game for skipping practice the day after his son was born. The Rams' defense allowed 471 points last season after giving up only 242 in winning the Super Bowl the previous season.
Three other Rams defenders were told Wednesday their services weren't needed -- tackles D'Marco Farr and Ray Agnew were released to provide salary cap room, and linebacker Mike Jones.
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