Walker asked for release after Winfield signed

Minnesota Vikings: Honoring the request of cornerback Denard Walker, the Vikings on Tuesday released the seven-year veteran, making him a free agent and able to sign elsewhere.

Walker, 30, had signed a four-year, $13.1 million contract with the Vikings only a year ago as a free agent, after he was released by the Denver Broncos for salary cap reasons. His decision to seek a separation from the Vikings came shortly after the team signed unrestricted free agent Antoine Winfield three weeks ago.

In the wake of Walker's request to be released, the two sides attempted to negotiate a contract restructuring that might have kept him in Minnesota, but could not come to an accord that adequately addressed each other's needs. Minnesota officials offered Walker in trade talks but several teams, knowing he would be released, opted to wait and try to acquire the cornerback as a free agent instead.

It is believed that the Cincinnati Bengals, who pursued Walker a year ago and are again in the market for a veteran cornerback, could be interested in adding him. Certainly he will benefit from the fact the cornerback position has been picked over in free agency.

Over the past few days, Walker and the team essentially reached a release settlement. In return for being set free, Walker reworked his contract so the Vikings could avoid cap liability in 2004 for $2 million in guaranteed funds.

When the Vikings signed Walker last spring, they felt he would help to fortify a unit in need of veteran leadership. But after starting in eight games, he was injured in October, lost his starting job to Ken Irvin, and played the balance of the year as a "nickel" corner. Minnesota coaches hoped Walker would agree to the "nickel" spot again this season but he apparently still feels he can be a starter elsewhere.

In stints with Tennessee (1997-2000), Denver (2001-2002), and Minnesota (2003), he has 416 tackles, 12 interceptions and 82 passes defensed. Walker has played in 109 games and has been a starter in 96 of them.

--- Len Pasquarelli, senior NFL writer for ESPN.com

New York Giants: The Giants and wide receiver Amani Toomer have agreed to a contract extension through 2008, ESPN's Chris Mortensen has learned.

Toomer's previous contract still had two more years on it. The three-year extension is worth $20.75 million, including an $8 million signing bonus.

Toomer had 63 catches for 1,057 yards and scored five touchdowns last season.

The new deal lowers his salary cap number for this season, but
the team said the real savings will come in later years.

New England Patriots: Often overshadowed by his boss, Bill Belichick, the Patriots vice president of personnel Scott Pioli stepped at least briefly into the spotlight on Tuesday.

Pioli was named the NFL's executive of the year for the 2003 season. The announcement was made at the league meetings in Palm Beach, Fla.

The award is presented annually by The Sporting News and is voted on by NFL executives. Pioli, who has been instrumental in building the Patriots' roster, principally through the draft but also with a few key free agents, received 29 of the 60 votes cast. The runner-up was Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney.

While he does not hold the title of general manager, Pioli has many of the responsibilities of that job. He generally sets the New England draft board, does much of the preliminary evaluation and interviewing of veteran free agents, and also negotiates contracts.

--- Len Pasquarelli, senior NFL writer for ESPN.com

Kansas City Chiefs: Unrestricted free agent defensive tackle Lional Dalton, released earlier this month by the Washington Redskins, has agreed to a two-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The deal will pay Dalton base salaries of $535,000 for 2004 and $665,000 for 2005, the minimum base salaries for a player of his tenure.

Dalton, 29, will add another veteran player to the Chiefs' tackle rotation as a backup to starters Ryan Sims and John Browning. He will vie with Eric Downing and perhaps Eddie Freeman for the No. 3 tackle spot.

The Redskins acquired Dalton from Denver last summer for a conditional draft pick and he appeared in 12 contests, starting nine, and posted 14 tackles and one sack. Once regarded as one of the top No. 3 tackles in the league, Dalton's career has sputtered in the past couple seasons and he hopes to regain his form with the Chiefs.

The former Eastern Michigan star has played in 78 games and started 29, and registered 90 tackles and three sacks.

--- Len Pasquarelli, senior NFL writer for ESPN.com

Detroit Lions: Pending a physical examination Thursday, unrestricted free agent quarterback Rick Mirer will sign a contract with the Detroit Lions, where he will fill the No. 3 spot on the depth chart.

Mirer, 34, ostensibly replaces Ty Detmer, who signed last week with Atlanta.

Mirer is familiar with Lions coach Steve Mariucci and his West Coast-style offense, and will follow Joey Harrington and Mike McMahon on the depth chart.

The journeyman Mirer will be joining his sixth team. He began his career as the first-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 1993. He has completed 1,088 of 2,043 passes for 11,969 yards, with 50 touchdown passes and 76 interceptions. His career passer rating in 80 appearances, including 68 starts, is 63.5.

--- Len Pasquarelli, senior NFL writer for ESPN.com

Buffalo Bills: Bills cornerback Troy Vincent was elected
president of the NFL Players Association on Tuesday.

Vincent, who left the Eagles as a free agent this year and
signed with Buffalo, replaces Trace Armstrong, the union president
for the last eight years. Armstrong, who is considering retirement,
did not run for re-election.

Vincent has been on the NFLPA executive committee since 2000.
Last year, he received the NFLPA's highest honor, the Byron
"Whizzer" White Humanitarian of the Year award.

Keenan McCardell of Tampa Bay and Mark Bruener of Houston were
elected to the executive committee. Eight current executive
committee members were re-elected: Robert Porcher and Ray Brown of
Detroit; Brian Mitchell, an unrestricted free agent who played with
the Giants last season; Eddie George of Tennessee; Tim Brown of
Oakland; Ernie Conwell of New Orleans; Robert Griffith of
Cleveland; and Kevin Mawae of the New York Jets.

--- The Associated Press

New Orleans Saints: Steve Sidwell spent 21 years in the NFL as a
coach, 17 of them as a defensive coordinator.

During all that time, Sidwell said he never saw a group of
players and coaches like those he worked with from 1986 to 1994
with the New Orleans Saints.

Those were some of the best seasons for the Saints and some of
the best defenses the team ever had, and it earned Sidwell a spot
in the Saints' Hall of Fame.

Sidwell and two-time Pro Bowl running back Ruben Mayes have been
elected to the Hall. The pair, along with former Times-Picayune
sports editor Bob Roesler, will be inducted in late November.
Roesler was the winner of the Joe Gemelli Fleur De Lis Award, in
recognition of his contributions to professional football in New

Under Sidwell, the Saints' defense was ranked first in points
allowed twice (1991, 92), first in passing defense twice (1992-93)
and first in rushing defense in 1989.

During each season Sidwell was the Saints defensive coordinator,
at least one defensive player went to the Pro Bowl. In 1992, the
entire starting linebacking group -- Rickey Jackson, Vaughan
Johnson, Sam Mills and Pat Swilling, made the Pro Bowl.

Sidwell, now retired, lives in Massachusetts.

Mayes suffered repeated injuries during his five seasons with
the Saints (1986-90), but still ranks third on the team's all-time
rushing list with 3,408 yards on 837 carries. He scored 23 rushing
touchdowns during his New Orleans career.

--- The Associated Press

Tampa Bay Bucs: The Bucs re-signed promising young cornerback Corey Ivy on Tuesday, keeping him with a one-year contract for $380,000, the minimum base salary for a player with two years of league experience.

An excellent special teams player, Ivy could have a more expanded role in the "nickel" and "dime" coverage packages in 2004, as Tampa Bay coaches continue to be impressed by his pure "ball" skills. Despite a lack of size, the 5-feet-8 Ivy is a tenacious defender and is capable of playing press coverage..

Originally signed as an undrafted free agent from Oklahoma in 2001, he appeared in just one game that season, and did not receive credit toward his pension, having spent much of the campaign on the practice squad. Ivy has played in 33 games and started two, and has 24 tackles from scrimmage and two passes defensed. More notable are his 39 tackles on special teams the past two seasons.

--- Len Pasquarelli, senior NFL writer for ESPN.com

Philadelphia Eagles: Moving to provide incumbent David Akers some help handling the kicking chores in camp, the Eagles on Tuesday signed free agent placement specialist Tim Duncan, who appeared in five games with the Arizona Cardinals in 2003.

Duncan, 24, converted six of 10 field goal attempts and five of six extra point tries, in totaling 23 points. Akers is among the NFL's top kickers, so it isn't expected Duncan will realistically compete for his job.

--- Len Pasquarelli, senior NFL writer for ESPN.com