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Dolphins lock up another defensive standout for #036;42M

The Associated Press

The Miami Dolphins know how dominant their defense is, and they want to keep it that way.

Tuesday, July 24, 2001

The Miami Dolphins know how dominant their defense is, and they want to keep it that way.

The Dolphins took another big step toward shutting down opposing offenses for years to come, signing All-Pro defensive end Jason Taylor to a six-year, $42 million contract Monday on the eve of training camp.

”We’re trying to keep our nucleus together,” Miami coach Dave Wannstedt said. ”Most of these guys are 26 or 27 years old and just getting into the prime of their careers.”

Taylor, 26, had a career-high 14 1/2 sacks last year for the AFC East champions. He was chosen for the All-Pro team and voted a Pro Bowl starter, both for the first time.

”You’re talking about a player in the early stages of developing into a dominating player in this league,” Wannstedt said.

Taylor’s contract replaces the one-year, $5.39 million deal the Dolphins tendered him in February, when he was designated their franchise player.

The long-term agreement further ensures the stability of a defense that ranked third in the NFL last year in points allowed.

Six veteran starters are under contract through at least 2003: Taylor, linebackers Zach Thomas and Derrick Rodgers, tackle Daryl Gardener, and cornerbacks Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain.

Miami also signed four rookies, including Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel, the sixth-round pick; No. 2 choice Chris Chambers, a wide receiver from Wisconsin; and Florida State running back Travis Minor, a third-round selection.

Patriots

Running back Robert Edwards, who severely injured his knee in a beach football game at the 1999 Pro Bowl, flunked the team’s conditioning test, falling a second short at the end of 20 straight 60-yard dashes.

Edwards said he failed because he was nervous, and wants to try again. But he was placed on the team’s physically unable to perform list, keeping him out at the start of training camp.

Also, New England signed first-round draft pick Richard Seymour to a six-year deal for $14.3 million, including a $4.8 million signing bonus.

Panthers

Carolina released veteran defensive end Chuck Smith, who played in only two games last season because of arthritic knees after signing a five-year, $21.5 million contract.

Wide receiver Patrick Jeffers, co-holder of the team record for touchdown catches, says he’s concerned about persistent swelling in his left knee. Jeffers missed all of last season after injuring the knee in training camp.

Lions

Detroit agreed to terms with three draft picks, including first-round tackle Jeff Backus.

The Lions also announced agreements with center Dominic Raiola and defensive tackle Shaun Rogers.

Backus will receive $6.673 million over five years, with incentives that can bring the contract’s value to about $8 million.

Bears

Wide receiver Bobby Engram, who tore up his right knee in the third game of last season, worked out and said he’s finally ready to come back. Engram led Chicago in receiving in 1998 and 1999.

Bills

Buffalo released free agent rookie quarterback Tim Hasselbeck, brother of Seattle starter Matt Hasselbeck, and cut punter Pat Pidgeon.

Packers

Green Bay signed wideout Robert Ferguson, the team’s second-round draft pick out of Texas A&M. With a recent dropoff in production from top receiver Antonio Freeman, Ferguson will likely need to contribute quickly.