NFL Notebook

Raiders’ Asomugha a free agent

Final year of contract voided over incentives

Associated Press / January 10, 2011

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The final year in Nnamdi Asomugha’s record contract with the Oakland Raiders is no longer in force because the Pro Bowl cornerback didn’t reach certain incentives.

Raiders senior executive John Herrera said yesterday that the contract was voided, making Asomugha a free agent. Asomugha signed a $45.3 million, three-year contract in February 2009 that made him the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history. He was paid $28.5 million in the first two years of the contract.

The Raiders had an option for 2011, which would be worth either $16.8 million or the amount of the quarterback franchise tag, whichever is greater.

Asomugha’s contract had a clause that said his contract would be voided if he didn’t participate in more plays in 2010 than the previous year or improve his interception, fumble recovery, or sack totals.

Asomugha missed two games with a sprained ankle so he did not reach the playing time incentive. He also had no interceptions, fumble recoveries, or sacks. He had one interception, no fumble recoveries, and no sacks in 2009.

The Raiders now will have to decide whether to shell out big money to keep their star cornerback or use it to shore up other positions.

“We have to wait on the ramifications of the new CBA to be able to move on,’’ Herrera said.

Martin heads Hall finalists Running backs Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis, and Marshall Faulk and cornerback Deion Sanders are among 15 finalists announced for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2011. Martin, Bettis, and Faulk are among the NFL’s top 10 rushers, and are eligible for the first time. Sanders and offensive tackle Willie Roaf also are eligible for the first time. The other finalists are receivers Tim Brown, Andre Reed, and Cris Carter; center Dermontti Dawson; defensive ends Richard Dent, Charles Haley, and Chris Doleman; defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy; and tight end Shannon Sharpe, along with NFL filmmaker Ed Sabol. The 15 finalists, plus senior nominees Chris Hanburger and Les Richter, will be considered for induction Feb. 5, the day before the Super Bowl. The enshrinement is in August . . . The Broncos met with their first two coaching candidates, Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and Eric Studesville, who is trying to convince his bosses they should remove the “interim’’ tag and make him their next coach . . . Less than one week after interviewing for the Cowboys coaching position, receivers coach Ray Sherman confirmed that his contract with the team will not be renewed. The Cowboys removed the interim tag from Jason Garrett’s title and made him head coach last week.

Caldwell: No regrets Colts coach Jim Caldwell said he doesn’t regret calling a late timeout that might have helped the Jets’ winning drive in New York’s 17-16 wild-card playoff victory Saturday night, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Caldwell called the timeout when New York, trailing by 2 points, had the ball at the Indianapolis 32-yard line with 29 seconds remaining. Television cameras caught Colts quarterback Peyton Manning looking around, puzzled by the move.

On the next play, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez hit Braylon Edwards for 18 yards down the right sideline, pushing his team’s field goal try from 50-plus yards to 32. Nick Folk nailed the kick as time expired.

Caldwell said the Colts hoped the Jets would run the ball, burning more clock, or Indianapolis could force a turnover or make a defensive play that would take New York out of field goal range.

Saints running on empty The Saints’ season-long struggles with the running game will continue, even after they were knocked out of the playoffs by the Seahawks Saturday.

Perhaps most unsettling was the performance of Reggie Bush, who entered the postseason expecting to shoulder the load of the Saints’ running game but instead went to the locker room after taking a hit to his lower right leg, an area where he fractured a bone early in the season. X-rays were negative, but it was the latest example of the electrifying athlete’s struggle to prove he can be reliable or consistent.

“It just flared up on me a little bit and I couldn’t run full speed,’’ Bush said after Seattle’s 41-36 upset.

Bush will be due more than $11 million next season, the sixth and final year on his first pro contract.

In recent seasons, Pierre Thomas has picked up the slack when Bush went down. This season, Thomas sprained his left ankle in Week 3, missed nine games before a brief comeback, and wound up on injured reserve.

Green declares for draft University of Georgia star receiver A.J. Green said he’ll give up his senior season to enter the NFL draft. He’s projected as one of the top picks — possibly even No. 1 after Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck decided to stay in school another year. Also electing to skip their senior seasons are LSU cornerback and return man Patrick Peterson and Clemson running back Jamie Harper . . . The playoffs’ first two games set a slew of milestones for NFL television ratings. The Seahawks’ upset of the Saints on NBC earned the highest preliminary rating for the early Saturday wild-card game in two decades. The 18.3 overnight rating, with a 33 share, was the best since the Redskins-Eagles game during the 1990 season. The network said the two-game average of 19.4/33 was the best on Saturday since the 1994 season for Lions-Packers and Chiefs-Dolphins. The Jets’ last-second win over the Colts earned the highest rating since the NFL began airing prime-time wild-card games in 2002. The 20.8/33 was the best for any Saturday wild-card game since Arizona-Dallas during the 1999 season.

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