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Saturday, March 2
Dilfer is No. 1 QB heading into camp

By Len Pasquarelli

INDIANAPOLIS -- A bridesmaid no more, free agent quarterback Trent Dilfer has reached a contract agreement to return to the Seattle Seahawks, and as a condition of the accord, coach Mike Holmgren will elevate the eight-year veteran to the starter's job.

Clayton: QB market drying up
The quarterback market has quickly sorted itself out, and the big losers are Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe and former Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac.

Unless the Bengals, a team that Bledsoe doesn't want to play for, make a trade, Bledsoe will be forced to stick around in New England as the highest-paid backup in NFL history. The Patriots say that they haven't received any offers or phone calls on Bledsoe, so the team is saying that they are prepared to move forward with three quality quarterbacks, Tom Brady, the $103 million Bledsoe and Damon Huard.

The Redskins, Texans, Bills and Bengals are the only teams actively shopping for a quarterback. The Lions could be in the market but they are considering drafting Joey Harrington. Grbac's market shrank by two when the Bears re-signed Jim Miller and the Seahawks re-signed Trent Dilfer. The Redskins aren't looking to pay big for a quarterback, and Spurrier has said he's not interested in Bledsoe.

The Texans want a veteran who can hand the starting job to David Carr, the likely first-round choice in the draft. That leaves the Bengals and the Bills for Grbac. His task is to come out with a $2.5 million payday in 2002 or more to top the final offer by the Ravens before they cut him Friday.
-- John Clayton

The agreement was confirmed by Seattle officials attending the annual predraft combine sessions here and also by sources close to Dilfer.

Dilfer will sign a four-year contract worth $8 million but with a provision that could raise the ante to $18 million. He will receive a signing bonus of $4 million and also base salaries of $750,000 (for 2002), $750,000 (2003), $1.25 million (2004) and $1.25 million (2005). But if the Seahawks win 10 games in 2002 and Dilfer compiles a passer rating of 85.0 or higher, the base salaries for the final three seasons of the deal become $3.5 million, $4.5 million and $5.25 million.

With the deal, Dilfer moves ahead of Matt Hasselbeck on the Seattle depth chart. Dilfer has played the past two seasons, with Baltimore in 2000 and Seattle in 2001, for $1 million each. Getting the opportunity to start again was more of a determining factor than money for Dilfer.

The former Fresno State star was a hot commodity in the free agent market and Dilfer was tentatively scheduled to visit with Cincinnati Bengals officials next Tuesday. There were at least three or four other franchises interested in him as well.

ESPN.com confirmed that negotiations with the Seahawks picked up steam after the team called Dilfer on Friday morning and asked for one more chance to re-sign him.

Dilfer, 29, led the Ravens to a Super Bowl XXXV championship in 2000 but Baltimore decided not to keep him and instead signed Elvis Grbac as its starter. Ironically, Grbac was released by the Ravens on Friday after he and the team could not reach agreement on a restructured contract.

In his last 20 starts, including postseason play, Dilfer has posted a 19-1 record. He played in seven games and started four for the Seahawks in 2001, with a 4-0 record as the starter. Dilfer completed 73 of 122 passes for 1,014 yards, with seven touchdowns and four interceptions.

For his career, he has 1,324 completions in 2,386 attempts for 15,485 yards, with 79 touchdown passes, 89 interceptions and a passer rating of 71.2.

Dilfer was the first-round pick of Tampa Bay in the 1994 draft, He played six seasons with the Bucs, moved to the Ravens as a free agent in 2000 and to the Seahawks last year.

"He's very excited. His goal was to get the chance to be the starter in Seattle," his agent, Mike Sullivan told The Associated Press on Saturday. "He loves those guys up there and the opportunity to play with them again is fantastic."

Holmgren had said he would decide on his starter sometime during the off-season.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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