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Roaf wants to continue career with Broncos

Having already decided he wants no part of the New Orleans Saints or coach Jim Haslett anymore, offensive tackle Willie Roaf is now concentrating on teams for which he would play in 2002, and it should come as no surprise that his top choice is the Denver Broncos.

A nine-year veteran and seven-time Pro Bowl performer, Roaf announced last week his relationship with Haslett and the Saints front office has deteriorated to the point where he will retire rather than to return to New Orleans for another season. Like many unhappy players before him, he sees Denver as an ideal spot to finish his career.

"The Broncos are only a couple of people away from getting back to the next level," Roaf told the Denver Post last week. "I'd love to be one of those players who can help them get back there."

Over the weekend, Roaf used even stronger language, suggesting the Broncos are "one of only a few teams, and really the top one, for which I'd come back."

Roaf, 31, is rehabilitating from Nov. 27 surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Team officials contend Roaf is behind schedule on the rehabilitation and might miss a major part of the Saints' offseason conditioning program and possible the opening of training camp.

But the standout left tackle, elected to the league's "Team of the '90s" and one of the NFL's premier pass protectors during his career, insisted doctors have told him he will be fine. He said he can still play three or four more years at a high level, provided his place of employment isn't below sea level -- New Orleans.

Instead he would like to play in the Mile High City, where his agents reside, where the Broncos play on grass, the organization is viewed as first-class, and he once owned a home. Toward that end, Roaf has instructed his agents, Lamont Smith and Peter Schaffer, to seek a trade to the Broncos.

Officials from the two teams could meet as early as the NFL's annual scouting combine sessions, which begin March 1, in Indianapolis.

It appears the Saints, who originally exposed Roaf in the expansion draft, are prepared to move forward without him in 2002. The team was forced to remove Roaf from the expansion list when he could not pass a league-mandated examination of his knee. It appears the Saints will field offers for Roaf and that other teams, beyond the Broncos, will have an interest in Roaf.

As part of the six-year, $27 million contract extension Roaf signed last year, New Orleans owes him a roster bonus of $4.25 million on March 20. A team source said there is "no chance" the Saints will make that payment to Roaf, even if it means releasing him before that due date.

The starting left tackle for the Broncos in 2001 was Trey Teague, who played inconsistently, and Roaf would represent an upgrade at the position provided he is recovered from surgery.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.