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Clements signs for $80m with 49ers

Nate Clements didn't lead the league in interceptions last season, but he was the biggest pick in the opening hours of free agency, signing an eight-year, $80 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers yesterday, making the former Bills cornerback the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.

Clements, 27, will receive $22 million guaranteed.

The 49ers also signed defensive back Michael Lewis, a hard-hitting defender who played safety and linebacker for the Eagles last season.

Clements, Buffalo's first pick (21st overall) in 2001, has 23 interceptions and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2002 and 2004. He has returned five interceptions and two punts for touchdowns. He had three interceptions last season and a career-high 16 passes defended.

The 49ers had more than $30 million in cap room, and a good chunk of it went to Clements.

"I am excited to add two defensive starters to our team," said coach Mike Nolan on the team's website. "Free agency is about adding good players with character to our team. I am confident that Nate and Michael will help make us better."

Plummer retiring?
Jake Plummer's status with the Broncos is in limbo.

The quarterback, who lost his starting job during the 2006 season, would rather retire than accept a trade to Tampa Bay, the NFL Network and other media sources reported.

The Broncos and Buccaneers had reportedly worked out an agreement that would send Plummer to the Buccaneers in exchange for a middle-round draft pick.

But Plummer, 32, who has three years left on his contract and is due $5.3 million in 2007, is reportedly balking at a trade.

Colts cut Stokley
Brandon Stokley became an unaffordable luxury, so the Colts resorted to cost-cutting as the cuts came fast and furious.

Stokley, who was due a $500,000 roster bonus, and defensive tackle Montae Reagor, due about a $1 million roster bonus, became the first players to leave the Super Bowl champions. The moves came as free agency opened and the Super Bowl champions faced a host of potential changes.

Former Pro Bowl linebacker Cato June, starting cornerback Nick Harper, and running back Dominic Rhodes -- all key contributors in the Colts' postseason run -- are unrestricted free agents.

In other salary cap casualties, the Jets released seldom-used backup quarterback Patrick Ramsey; defensive end Kevin Carter and guard Jeno James were released by the Dolphins; and Ed Hartwell, who played in only 13 games in two seasons with the Falcons after signing a four-year, $26.25 million contract as a free agent in 2005, was released by Atlanta, as was veteran linebacker, Ike Reese.

Bay Area return?
The Oakland Raiders contacted representatives for quarterback Jeff Garcia, who has expressed an interest in returning to the Bay Area.

Garcia became a free agent when the Eagles decided not to bring him back, even though he led the team to five consecutive wins to end the regular season and a victory in the first round of the playoffs after Donovan McNabb went down with a season-ending knee injury.

Garcia spent his first five NFL seasons with the 49ers.

The Raiders are expected to use the No. 1 overall pick on a quarterback, either JaMarcus Russell of LSU or Brady Quinn of Notre Dame.

The team with the second pick in the draft, the Lions, sent defensive end James Hall to the Rams for a fifth-round pick.

Bills move quickly
With the flurry of cuts came the signings, and, in some cases, re-signings. The Bills were active, signing three offensive linemen: guard Derrick Dockery (seven years, $49 million with an $18.5 million signing bonus), tackle Langston Walker, and journeyman Jason Whittle. The Bills also began seeking offers for Pro Bowl linebacker Takeo Spikes. Coach Dick Jauron acknowledged this week the team is listening to offers for running back Willis McGahee. And to top it off, middle linebacker London Fletcher was preparing to meet with the Redskins . . . The Browns agreed to terms with free agent offensive lineman Eric Steinbach on a seven-year, $49.5 million contract, which includes $17 million in guaranteed money, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told the Associated Press . . . Free agent defensive end Juqua Thomas, who posted career highs of 47 tackles and six sacks, re-signed with the Eagles . . . The Steelers re-signed Najeh Davenport to a $2 million, two-year contract . . . Cornerback Phillip Buchanon, a bust since Oakland selected him with the 17th pick overall in 2002, re-signed with the Buccaneers, as did cornerback Torrie Cox . . . The Jaguars added a starter by signing right tackle Tony Pashos to a five-year contract. The team also agreed to a five-year deal with kicker Josh Scobee. Pashos started 16 games for Baltimore last season.

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