|Thursday, May 15
Inactivity, numbers game lead to McNown's release
By Len Pasquarelli
Former first-round quarterback Cade McNown, who has not thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2000, was released by the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday in a move that coach Dennis Erickson had hinted at earlier in the week.
McNown, 26, was acquired by the 49ers from the Miami Dolphins last summer in a deal for a conditional draft choice. But beset by shoulder problems, he never played in a game for San Francisco. He underwent shoulder surgery and was completing his rehabilitation, but simply did not fit into the team's plans.
It could be difficult, given his shoulder problems, lack of production and some perceived attitude issues, for McNown to generate interest as a free agent. He was scheduled to earn the minimum base salary for a fifth-year veteran, $530,000, in 2003 and the 49ers will be rebated that amount on their salary cap.
The former UCLA star, known for his cockiness and outspoken nature, was part of a '99 first-round quarterback bounty. He was the last of the five quarterbacks chosen in the first round that year, the Chicago Bears making him the 12th overall pick, and he eventually signed a seven-year, $8.5 million contract that included a $6.1 million signing bonus.
Other first-round quarterbacks that year were Tim Couch of Cleveland (No. 1), Donovan McNabb of Philadelphia (No. 3), Cincinnati's Akili Smith (No. 3) and Daunte Culpepper of Minnesota (No. 11). Of the group, only McNabb and Culpepper are assured of starting jobs in 2003. Couch is in a heated competition with Kelly Holcomb for the top spot on the depth chart and Smith is at best the No. 2 quarterback in Cincinnati.
As a rookie, McNown started six games for the Bears and played in 15 contests, and then started in nine of 10 appearances in 2000. He completed 281 of his 515 pass attempts for 3,111 yards, with 16 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions in two years with the Bears. He was traded to Miami in 2001 but was designated as the third quarterback for all 16 games that year, then was dealt to San Francisco last June 13.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.