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Tuesday, May 27, 2003
Bengals release four veterans

By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

An aggressive approach to free agency under rookie head coach Marvin Lewis, and a draft class that is arguably the team's best in several years, has provided the Cincinnati Bengals with more depth and quality. On Tuesday afternoon, some veterans paid the price for the Cincinnati roster upgrade, as the team released four players.

A pair of six-year veterans, linebacker Canute Curtis and offensive lineman Brock Gutierrez, were the senior-most players released. Both veterans spent their entire NFL careers with the Bengals, as Curtis was a sixth-round draft selection in 1997 while Gutierrez was signed as an undrafted free agent.

The other players released were defensive end Eric Ogbogu and fullback Mike Green. The latter, a three-year veteran, had been claimed on waivers from Tennessee just two months ago. Ogbogu was signed as an unrestricted free agent last spring. The former New York Jets backup is a five-year veteran.

None of the moves could be termed for salary cap reasons, since the Bengals are well under the league spending limit, and the moves created just modest spending room. The transactions saved Cincinnati an aggregate of about $2.35 million.

Instead, all four players were victimized either by more depth at their positions or by an inability to fit into the schemes being implemented by Lewis and his staff.

After playing outside linebacker virtually all of his career, Curtis was moved to middle linebacker in mini-camps, and struggled at the position. Despite his versatility on the line, Gutierrez was bumped down the depth chart when the Bengals selected Eric Steinbach in the second round and retained unrestricted free agent Rich Braham as a backup.

Curtis, 28, played in 70 games and started 15 of them during his Bengals tenure, and he had 115 tackles, three sacks and three forced fumbles. The 29-year-old Gutierrez played in 69 games with eight starts.

For his career, Ogbogu, 27, has played in 53 games and never had a start. He appeared in 12 games for the Bengals in 2002 and posted 48 tackles and one sack. The additions of Carl Powell and Duane Clemons in free agency made him expendable.

Green rushed for 142 yards on 36 carries in three seasons with the Titans. He has never played much at fullback, but the Bengals felt he might be able to make the transition from tailback, if he improved his blocking skills. But the team chose fullback Jeremi Johnson of Western Kentucky in the fourth round and he has already impressed the coaches.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.