The team granted George's request Wednesday, releasing him in
time to catch on with another squad for training camp.
On Thursday, the club then agreed to a one-year deal with free agent Antowain Smith.
"The best thing for Eddie George would be for him to finish his
career here," general manager Floyd Reese said at a news
conference. "For a number of reasons we were unable to get that
George has said he wants to play for a team with a chance to win
the Super Bowl, specifically mentioning Tampa Bay, Dallas and his
hometown of Philadelphia. The Cowboys, however, have only minimal interest in pursuing him at this point, team sources told ESPN's Ed Werder.
Anticipating George's release, Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones had seemed to be an advocate of trying to sign him to a free agent contract. While Jones has the power to overrule his football people, Bill Parcells and his coaching staff advised against it, the sources told Werder, believing that it would interfere with the development of Julius Jones, the team's top draft choice.
George, an eight-year veteran who turns 31 in September, rejected the
Titans' latest offer and asked for his release Monday so he would
have time to catch on with another team before training camps open next week.
The Titans wanted George back, but at a reduced salary. The
team's final offer was $1.5 million in base salary -- considerably
less than the $4.25 million he expected to make this season.
George, who has never missed a start in his career, was popular
with Titans fans, but his production slipped in recent years. In
2000, he ran for 1,509 yards, averaging 3.7 yards per carry. But
last season his average fell to 3.3 yards per carry, and his total
The Titans' offense has also changed and now emphasizes the
passing of Steve McNair, the NFL's co-MVP in 2003.
Reese said there was a disagreement over a $1 million roster
bonus the Titans paid George in March. The team considered that
part of his salary for this year, but George considered it part of
the previous deal.
"How do we replace him? Well, we're going to have to replace
him with more than one guy," Reese said. "It's going to be
impossible to find one guy to do all the things Eddie did."
Staley, 29, signed a 5-year, $14 million contract with the
Steelers that included a $4 million signing bonus. Garner, 32,
inked a 6-year, $20 million deal with the Buccaneers that also
included a $4 million signing bonus.
With 2005 and 2006 unresolved in the Titans' offer, George also
doubted he would be able to achieve some of the incentives.
"They can try to spin it however they want to," Smith said.
"The bottom line is they let a player go that gave his heart and
soul to that team for the last eight years, and they didn't make a
real effort to retain him."
Titans coach Jeff Fisher said he also expects the Titans'
remaining backs, veteran Robert Holcombe and second-year player
Chris Brown, to play a greater role in the offense. Meanwhile, the addition of Smith gives the Titans a veteran presence. Smith, who has averaged 3.9 yards per carry over his seven-year career in New England and Buffalo, has won two Super Bowl rings with the Patriots.
"I think George gave this organization his heart and his soul,
and I'll be forever grateful for that," Fisher said.
McNair said he'll miss his teammate and friend.
"He was a great asset to my success through the eight years
that we were together because of his dedication and his
toughness," McNair said. "He's one of my guys that I looked up
to. It's a very sad day for me."
Brown said he learned a lot from George and he'll miss him, but
he's ready for the added responsibility.
"It's sad to see him go, but everyone had to do what they had
to do," Brown said. "I welcome the opportunity if they now expect
things out of me. I'm going to go out there and get the job done."
Speculation over George's future with Tennessee began last
season over whether the Titans, in deep salary cap trouble, could
afford to keep the running back. Tennessee tried to free up salary
cap space in February by reworking George's deal, which runs
through 2006, but he declined.
He is only the second NFL running back to rush for 10,000 yards
while never missing a start, joining Jim Brown. Only Walter Payton
(170) has started more consecutive regular-season games than
Last December, George became the 17th running back to top 10,000
yards. He has 64 touchdowns for the franchise that drafted the 1995
Heisman Trophy winner out of Ohio State in April 1996.
"I could draft running backs for the next 30 years and I may
never draft another Eddie George," Reese said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.