Doug Flutie went from popular leader of the Buffalo Bills to unemployed quarterback.
Flutie joined fellow quarterbacks Ryan Leaf and Elvis Grbac as free agents, and three-time Super Bowl champion Ken Norton Jr. was released Wednesday -- a day when a slew of players were cut to clear salary cap room.
More players will be released as teams get down to the $67.4 million salary cap before free agency begins Friday.
Record-setting running back Corey Dillon will be the most accomplished free agent available, but the Cincinnati Bengals used their transition tag on him, giving them the right to match any offer.
The long-brewing controversy that revolved around Flutie and Rob Johnson ended when the Bills announced that Flutie, a fan favorite, would be cut, making Johnson the team's hands-down starter.
The decision was made despite Flutie's 21-9 record as Buffalo's starter, compared to Johnson's 8-10 mark. Buffalo saved about $3 million by releasing Flutie, 37. That's close to $1.4 million more than the team would have saved by cutting Johnson, 27.
"Doug's certainly proven with what he's been able to do that he can play at this level," Bills president and general manager Tom Donahoe said. "We felt we could win with both quarterbacks, but we felt we had to select the best quarterback for us. And we did that with Rob Johnson."
The Chargers had high hopes when they took Leaf with the second pick overall in the 1998 draft, right after Indianapolis took Peyton Manning. Instead, Leaf responded with poor play and boorish behavior.
Leaf leaves the Chargers with a 4-14 record as a starter, having thrown 33 interceptions and just 13 touchdown passes. The Chargers still owe him the final $2.95 million installment of his $11.25 million signing bonus, which was part of a deal potentially worth $31.25 million that he signed in July 1998.
San Diego also released cornerbacks DeRon Jenkins and Darryll Lewis, and running back Robert Chancey. The Chargers signed quarterback Dave Dickenson from the Calgary Stampeders to a two-year contract just a few hours before releasing Leaf.
"We are preparing for free agency and the draft, and this allows these players to catch on with another team," Chargers general manager John Butler said.
The Kansas City Chiefs, who ended last season almost $30 million over the cap, announced Grbac will become a free agent.
Negotiations produced one offer from Steiner of a five-year contract averaging $8 million a year, including a $20 million signing bonus. Grbac's contract called for a $10 million bonus if he was still on the roster Friday.
"We have been informed by Elvis Grbac's agent, Jim Steiner, that Elvis wants to pursue the free-agent market and would prefer to play somewhere else," Chiefs president Carl Peterson said.
The Chiefs also released two-time Pro Bowl cornerback James Hasty and four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chester McGlockton.
Norton spent six years with Dallas before joining the 49ers as a free agent in 1994. Norton is the only player in NFL history to win three consecutive Super Bowls -- two with the Cowboys, one with the 49ers.
In other salary-driven moves, the Pittsburgh Steelers released center Dermontti Dawson, and the Carolina Panthers released three players who were with George Seifert when he won a Super Bowl with the 49ers in 1995.
Carolina cut cornerback Eric Davis, fullback William Floyd and linebacker Lee Woodall. The moves were not unexpected for the salary-cap strapped Panthers.
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