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Bledsoe, Horn, McCardell let go in pre-free agency cuts

As expected, the Dallas Cowboys cut Drew Bledsoe on Thursday.

(March 1, 2007) -- As expected, the Dallas Cowboys cut Drew Bledsoe on Thursday.

Bledsoe, who lost his quarterback job to Tony Romo after six turnover- and sack-plagued starts last season, was one of a number of aging players cut as teams adjusted their rosters to get more salary cap room for the free agent period that begins Friday.

Also cut was Joe Horn, one of the leaders of the New Orleans Saints during their 2005 season in Hurricane Katrina-enforced exile.

The 35-year-old wide receiver, whose image did a 180-degree turn after Katrina forced the team from its home and left it to spend that year in Texas, was let go at his own request after he declined to take a pay cut.

He could come back.

"Joe really wanted to see where his value is around the league for his services," general manager Mickey Loomis said. "With as much as Joe has meant to the Saints and to New Orleans, we don't want to impede his desire to do so, and we have kept the door open for him to return to our team."

Among the other transactions on March 1:

-- Wide receiver Keenan McCardell, who turned 37 in January, was released by San Diego. He had 36 catches last year, his 15th in the NFL. San Diego also let go two troubled players: linebacker Steve Foley, who missed the season after being shot by a policeman, and safety Terrence Kiel, who pleaded guilty last month to felony and misdemeanor drug charges for shipping codeine-based cough syrup to Texas.

-- Pittsburgh cut linebacker Joey Porter, an outspoken sack specialist whose trash-talking was one of the subplots leading up to the 2006 Super Bowl, won by the Steelers.

-- Minnesota released three former starters: cornerback Fred Smoot, tight end Jermaine Wiggins and tackle Mike Rosenthal.

-- The New York Jets locked up receiver Jerrico Cotchery on a long-term deal.

A couple of other veterans stayed on by extending their contracts.

One was the oft-injured running back Fred Taylor, who now is signed with Jacksonville through 2010. The other is 35-year-old defensive lineman Bryant Young, the last member of the San Francisco 49ers from the Super Bowl years. Young, who was a rookie on the team that won the title after the 1994 season, agreed to stay on for one more year, to help lead the team both in the locker room and on the field.

Detroit and Denver agreed to a deal that will send cornerback Dre' Bly to the Broncos for offensive tackle George Foster, running back Tatum Bell and a fifth-round draft pick. The deal, which won't become official until Friday, when the free-agent period starts, was confirmed by someone with knowledge of the deal who asked to remain anonymous, because it had not yet been finalized.

And Carolina got under the $109 million cap by renegotiating the contracts of quarterback Jake Delhomme and defensive end Mike Rucker. That cleared about $5 million in cap space.

The release of Horn was notable because he had been such a symbol of his team.

First it was as a showboat -- he was fined by the NFL in 2003 for pulling a cell phone from a goal post and making a call after catching a touchdown pass. Then it was as a spokesman for the players in their exile in Texas after they were forced to flee their homes and spent 2005 on the road.

"Joe's numbers speak for themselves, and throughout his career here he has been everything an NFL player should be in the community," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "He holds a special place to our fans because of his involvement in the city and his passion on the field. Decisions of this type aren't easy, and we understand his desire to see what his value may be with other teams."

Last season, Horn had 37 catches for 679 yards and four touchdowns but missed the Saints' last four regular-season games and both playoff games because of a groin injury.

Bledsoe, who turned 35 on Valentine's day, was the No. 1 overall pick by New England in 1993. He was invited back by owner Jerry Jones, although he is sure to be a backup at a reduced salary.

"I spoke with Drew today and told him that this was primarily a cap decision and that the door was very much open for him being a part of our future," Jones said. "Drew has been a solid leader for our team and a true professional both on and off the field."

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