By The Associated Press
Fred Taylor and Chris McAlister, two former Pro Bowlers, fell victim Monday to the NFL's annual purge of high-salaried veterans.
The 33-year-old Taylor, Jacksonville's all-time leading rusher, was cut after 11 seasons as the team continued its offseason makeover. He was due to make $6 million next season.
The 31-year-old McAlister, a three-time Pro Bowler, was cut by Baltimore after 10 seasons. He was scheduled to make $8 million in 2009.
In another move, the Cincinnati Bengals designated kicker Shayne Graham as their franchise player, leaving three key starters, wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, running back Cedric Benson and left tackle Stacy Andrews who will become free agents on Feb. 27. Graham is guaranteed a salary of $2.483 million next season if he doesn't negotiate a long-term deal.
Taylor has 11,271 yards rushing and is the 16th leading rusher in NFL history. He had wanted to finish his career with the team. He made his first Pro Bowl in 2007 after running for 1,202 yards and a career-best 5.4 yards a carry.
But he finished with just 556 yards last season and averaged a career-low 3.9 yards per carry behind an injury-riddled offensive line as Maurice Jones-Drew took over his starting spot. He spent the final three games of the season on injured reserve after tearing ligaments in his left thumb as Jacksonville finished 5-11 after reaching the second round of the playoffs in 2007.
"We felt like the best thing for this football team is what it has to be about," said coach Jack Del Rio, who last week cut cornerback Drayton Florence and wide receiver Jerry Porter, high-priced free agents a year ago who failed to live up to expectations. "We feel good about the talented group of backs that we have ... and as you work through it, it's difficult to come up with a role that's going to be acceptable for everybody.
"It makes it awkward. It makes it difficult. We came to an agreement on what the best course of action was as a football team."
McAlister, who started for Baltimore's Super Bowl winner in 2001, ranks third on the Ravens' career list with 26 interceptions and scored seven touchdowns for Baltimore -- including a 107-yard return of a missed field goal.
He started five games last season before being benched and was placed on injured reserve with an injury to his right knee on Nov. 11. McAlister finished the season with three interceptions and 19 tackles.