It's open season for free agents Agents' meeting delays business

NFL teams didn't do much more than window shop yesterday when the free-agency signing period opened for almost 300 unrestricted free-agent players.

With more than 200 agents in Dallas for a seminar conducted by the NFL Players Association on the intricacies of the new system, the teams kept busy checking the list and leaving messages for agents. The Phoenix Cardinals, who are expected to be aggressive in the market, starting leaving messages at 12:01 a.m.


Jimmy Sexton, the agent for the most coveted free agent, Reggie White of the Philadelphia Eagles, was at the meeting, so he wasn't available.

Charley Casserly, the general manager of the Washington Redskins, said he didn't get a chance to talk to Sexton, although he wouldn't say if he even called Sexton's Memphis, Tenn., office.


"Let's be realistic. The bottom line is we're going to talk to him, but I'm not going to get into a day-by-day account of the thing," Casserly said.

The Redskins are allowed to sign only one free agent for more than $1.5 million because they were one of the top eight teams, and they hope to fit White into that slot.

The teams were given a list by the league of 298 five-year unrestricted free agents whose contracts have expired and another 46 players who are free agents because they weren't given qualifying offers by their teams. There are also 140 restricted free agents. Their teams can keep them by matching their best offers.

The list included at least two players, free safety Brad Edwards of the Redskins and quarterback Cody Carlson of the Houston Oilers, who've come to terms with their teams but the contracts haven't been filed with the league office.

It also includes three big-name players, linebackers Mike Singletary of the Chicago Bears and Billy Ray Smith of the San Diego Chargers and offensive tackle Anthony Munoz of the Cincinnati Bengals, who retired at the end of last season.

The list doesn't include White and safety Tim McDonald of the Cardinals. Both were protected as franchise players but can't be prevented from leaving because they were lead plaintiffs in the lawsuits. Their teams will get compensation from a special pool if they leave.

L Not counting Edwards, the Redskins have 20 unrestricted free

agents, including wide receivers Gary Clark and Art Monk, safety Danny Copeland, cornerback Martin Mayhew and defensive tackles Tim Johnson and Eric Williams. They are hoping to keep most of them.


Two players on the list, offensive lineman Mark Adickes and running back John Settle, missed all of last season with injuries, and Adickes is expected to retire.

One player who was expected to be on the list was tight end Don Warren, whose contract was listed as expired by the NFLPA. But Casserly said it included an option year. Warren is likely to retire.

Guard Ray Brown and tight end Ron Middleton were listed by the NFLPA as having expired contracts, but they weren't on the NFL list because, Casserly said, they agreed to new deals last year. The NFLPA information hasn't always been up to date in recent years, because it wasn't getting contracts from the league while the two sides were fighting in court.

Three Baltimore natives, Buffalo linebacker Carlton Bailey, New York Giants punter Sean Landeta and Philadelphia defensive lineman Mike Pitts, were on the list. Tony Agnone, the Baltimore-based agent for Bailey and Landeta, said he got several calls from teams about them.

The players have until July 15 to sign.