By The Associated Press
Eleven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks was released by the Buccaneers on Wednesday, part of a massive purge of veterans to help Tampa Bay get ready for free agency.
Cut along with Brooks were running back Warrick Dunn, wide receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard, and linebacker Cato June. All but June, who is 29, are well over 30 years old.
"There is no way to adequately thank Derrick Brooks for his years of dedication and service to this team and community, or for his impact on me personally," said Raheem Morris, the Bucs' new coach, who at 32 is younger than all the players cut except June.
"He is a once in a lifetime kind of player and man, and I am very fortunate to have had the chance to work with him and learn from him. Those who played with him and coached him are better because of it."
Brooks, who will turn 36 in April, was also a leader in the community and the 2000 NFL Man of the Year, honored for contributions on the field and off. The moves caught him by surprise.
"Right now, like all of you guys, I'm just trying to get a feel for it all, trying to come to grips with it," the 11-time Pro Bowl selection said by telephone. "I don't even know what to think."
Brooks and the others were cut for age reasons -- the Bucs already are far under the $123 million salary cap as free agency begins at 12:01 a.m. EST Friday.
Dunn, 34, was the Man of the Year in 2004. He played his first five seasons with the Bucs, spent six years with Atlanta, then rejoined Tampa Bay last season, rushing for 786 yards and a 4.2 average. He made the Pro Bowl three times and is the sixth player in NFL history to have over 10,000 yards rushing and 500 receptions. Dunn has played in 181 games with 154 starts, and rushed for 10,967 yards, 19th in NFL history.
Galloway, 37, is the only Buccaneer to have three straight seasons with more than 1,000 yards receiving, something he accomplished from 2005-2007. He is only the second player to have three such seasons with two different teams -- he did it in 1995 and 1997-98 with Seattle.
But he comes off an injury-plagued year in which he made only 13 catches.
Other veterans released Wednesday included quarterback Trent Green and wide receiver Drew Bennett by St. Louis; wide receiver Laveranues Coles by the New York Jets; receiver D.J. Hackett by Carolina; and safety Will Demps by Houston.
One player getting big money Wednesday was Giants running back Brandon Jacobs.
Less than two weeks after putting a franchise tag on him, New York signed the bruising halfback to a four-year, $25 million contract.
"I was confident all along that this was going to get done, I didn't panic one bit," Jacobs said in a statement released by the team. "I know the reason we did it the way we did; I knew I was going to be here. I was super-confident and I am here. I'm happy about it."
The deal includes $13 million in guarantees. Jacobs will earn $15 over the first two years.
Despite missing three games with a knee injury, Jacobs ran for 1,089 yards and a team-leading 15 touchdowns in helping the Giants win the NFC East last season.
Also staying put is linebacker Channing Crowder, who signed a multiyear contract with the Dolphins. Crowder, a former third-round draft choice, has been criticized for his failure to make many big plays. His career totals include no interceptions, 1 1/2 sacks and three fumbles recovered.
But he was the second-leading tackler last season on a much-improved defense for the Dolphins, who won the AFC East after going 1-15 in 2007.
San Diego re-signed offensive lineman Kynan Forney.
The 38-year-old Green, a two-time Pro Bowl pick, was in his second stint with the Rams. He played in three games last season, completing 38 of 72 passes for 525 yards with no touchdowns and six interceptions.
Green missed all but five games of the 2007 season after suffering a concussion while with Miami. He signed as a free agent with the Rams last year. His release is expected to save the Rams about $1.3 million in salary cap space.
Bennett signed a six-year, $30 million deal two years ago after six seasons with the Titans. But he struggled in 2007 and broke his leg in the first quarter of this past season's opener, missing the remainder of the season.
Carolina released Hackett, backup offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges and running back Nick Goings, saving $4 million. The Panthers already had restructured the contracts of cornerback Chris Gamble and linebacker Landon Johnson to create more cap room.
Hackett was signed to a two-year, $3.5 million free-agent deal before last season, but was plagued by injuries and never challenged Muhsin Muhammad for the No. 2 receiver job. He finished with just 13 receptions for 181 yards.
Houston, meanwhile, released Demps, defensive end Anthony Weaver, and offensive tackle Ephraim Salaam.
Weaver, who spent three years with the team, started each game last season opposite Mario Williams and finished with 45 tackles. Though he started all but four games in his time with the Texans, Weaver leaves the team with just one sack.
Demps, who has also played for the New York Giants and Baltimore, started five games last season and had 32 tackles. He came to Houston in 2007 and started eight games that year.