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Bears, Simmons agree for two years, $4 million
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Bears, Simmons agree for two years, $4 million

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It took the Chicago Bears two tries to get Clyde Simmons. And they have new coach Dick Jauron to thank for finally sealing the deal.

The free agent defensive end, whose 114 career sacks are 10th-best in the NFL, signed a two-year, $4 million deal Wednesday.

“I have a lot of confidence in Dick," Simmons said. “I've played in his scheme for a couple of years. I know what he brings to the table."

Simmons notched 16 sacks during two seasons at Jacksonville (1996 and 1997) while Jauron was the Jaguars' defensive coordinator. But the Jaguars let him go to make room for Tony Brackens.

Simmons visited Chicago last year during his free agency tour but signed with Cincinnati instead. He started all 16 games for the Bengals and finished with five sacks, second-best on the team, and 30 tackles.

But Simmons wasn't quite comfortable with Cincinnati's 3-4 defense after playing most of his 13-year career in 4-3 schemes. So when the Bears made another pitch this year, he was happy to listen.

“I felt really good about getting Clyde because of his relationship with Dick," said Mark Hatley, the Bears' vice president of player personnel. “Clyde liked it here the last time he was here, and Dick's real close to him. He felt like he'd fit in here and he'd really be a part of it."

Simmons has made the Pro Bowl twice (1991 and 1992) in his career. He has six touchdowns, 12 blocked kicks, 21 forced fumbles and 12 fumble recoveries.

While Jauron said Simmons could wind up being a starter, his signing won't stop the Bears from pursuing New York Giants defensive end Chad Bratzke. The free agent has postponed all of his visits due to his father's death, but the Bears hope to bring Bratzke in sometime next week.

The Bears will send eight players to the NFL Europe League: defensive tackle James Brown, cornerback Ricky Bell, punter Chris Dolman, offensive linemen Adam Hernandez and Dan Palmer; and safeties Jim Cantaloupe, Nick Ferguson and Greg Williams.

FALCONS:

Cornelius Bennett, a five-time Pro Bowler who led Atlanta in tackles during its Super Bowl season, was released.

The stunning move was announced late in the afternoon in a three-paragraph statement, which included no explanation from Falcons coach Dan Reeves or general manager Harold Richardson.

But the release of Bennett apparently stems from his age — he will be 34 by the start of next season — and a salary cap figure that would have been $3.7 million for the final year of the $13.6 million, four-year contract he signed in 1996.

Bennett led the team with 120 tackles, ending Jessie Tuggle's nine-year streak in that category, and was a major part of the Falcons' pass coverage.

He was a Pro Bowler during five of his nine seasons with the Buffalo Bills, establishing himself as one of the game' most dominating defensive players. His best year was 1991, when he played five positions and had 107 tackles and nine sacks.

Offensive lineman Dave Widell, 33, who played only one game during his lone season with the team, was also released.

PACKERS:

Former sports agent Andrew Brandt has been hired by Green Bay as its director of player finance-football operations. The team also said that Lance Lopes, who had been an assistant vice president, was being promoted to vice president-general counsel.

The Packers said one of Brandt's primary responsibilities will be negotiating player contracts. They also said he would assist general manager Ron Wolf in other aspect's of the team's football operations. Lopes is to take on additional responsibilities in the team's administration.

RAMS:

Free-agent safety Devin Bush signed a four-year contract with St. Louis Rams.

Bush, 25, was a first-round selection by the Falcons out of Florida State in 1995. He started 36 games for the Falcons but was relegated to a backup role in 1998 after the team signed Eugene Robinson.

BRONCOS:

Denver released safety Steve Atwater, one day after making Dale Carter the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history.

To free up space under the league's salary cap to sign Carter, the Broncos released Atwater, who was scheduled to count nearly $3.3 million against Denver's salary cap next season.

Atwater, 32, has played in eight Pro Bowls, but he has been bracing for his exit from Denver since being replaced on passing downs this past season.

The Broncos said that after Atwater has explored all options available to him, it is possible he may still return to the Broncos for the 1999 season.

Denver signed tackle Tony Berti, a 300-pound offensive player who is entering his fifth NFL season.

The one-year deal was worth $400,000, according to head coach Mike Shanahan.

Berti was released by the San Diego Chargers after a knee injury before the start of the 1998 season and signed with Seattle, but was inactive for the team's final five games.

JAGUARS:

Tight end Kyle Brady is headed for the Jaguars after the New York Jets declined to match a $14.4 million offer. Brady signed a five-year deal with the Jaguars earlier in the week, which the Jets had the right to match because they placed a transition player tag on the four-year veteran.

GIANTS:

Chris Calloway, who led New York in receptions the last four seasons, had his contract terminated in a salary cap move by the team after it signed linebacker Corey Widmer to an $11.2 million deal.

The release of Calloway will give the Giants an opportunity to see what young receivers Amani Toomer, Joe Jurevicius and Brian Alford can do when playing opposite Ike Hilliard.

Calloway, 30, was to earn a little more than $1 million this season, including a $500,000 roster bonus due on March 1.

PATRIOTS:

New England owner Robert Kraft may pocket some of the difference if construction costs for the team's Hartford stadium run below what the state has agreed to pay. Connecticut has pledged up to $280 million for the 68,000-seat stadium, scheduled to be built by 2002. The state will pay another $94 million in other costs, including securing the construction site and cleaning up environmental contamination. Kraft will pick up the tab if construction costs run more than $280 million. But if he cuts costs while building the stadium, he may be able to rake in some of the savings.

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