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Report: Ravens to release Pro Bowl TE Sharpe

BALTIMORE (Ticker) — No one expected Shannon Sharpe to go quietly.

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that Sharpe, the NFL’s all-time leader for tight ends in catches and yards, will be released by the Baltimore Ravens this week for salary cap purposes.

An eight-time Pro Bowler, Sharpe just completed his second season with the Ravens and is halfway through a four-year, $13.2 million contract that included a $4.5 million signing bonus.

Sharpe will be the latest member of the Ravens’ 2000 championship team to exit, following retired defensive tackle Tony Siragusa and linebacker Jamie Sharper and returner Jermaine Lewis, who were both selected by the Houston Texans in Monday’s NFL expansion draft.

Known for his trash-talking as well as his pass-catching ability, Sharpe took some verbal shots at Ravens senior vice president Ozzie Newsome and coach Brian Billick.

“I can see where they are headed when they take a linebacker like Jamie Sharper, who is 27 and one of the three best in the league outside of Ray Lewis, and put him on expansion,” Sharpe told the Baltimore Sun.

“I can see where they are headed when they take a player like Jermaine Lewis and put him out there. I don’t agree with them. I don’t care what Sharper’s (salary) cap number is. When you have a player that young, with so many good years remaining, you pay him. Jermaine is about the same age, and when our offense stalled last season, he was the only one to give us a spark. He is the only player on the team who can turn the game around with one touch. But Ozzie Newsome was executive of the year and Brian Billick is able to write books. What do I know? That’s why they make the big bucks.”

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Phillies sign OF Abreu to five-year extension

PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) — The Philadelphia Phillies have made Bobby Abreu the highest-paid player in team history, signing the All-Star right fielder to a five-year extension worth $64 million

Phillies general manager Ed Wade announced the deal on Wednesday morning.

Abreu receives a $3 million signing bonus and the Phillies will have an option for a sixth season at $16 million in 2008 or a $2 million buyout.

In addition, the contract includes numerous award bonuses and salary escalator provisions should Abreu finish in the top three of the National League Most Valuable Player Award which could raise the total to $78 million.

The average annual salary of Abreu’s five-year contract is worth $12.8 million, which ranks 18th in baseball, just below the $13 million annual average of catcher Mike Piazza and pitcher Chan Ho Park.

“Our stated objective has been to keep the core of the club together for a long time,” Wade said. “Signing Bobby is a clear indication that what we say is what we mean.

“We signed Mike Lieberthal to a deal prior to the 2000 season that bought out his free agency, and that was the first move we made towards keeping this group together. And, moving forward, we plan to make the same types of commitments to the players who we want to be a big part of our team now.”

The signing of Abreu was a clear message to third baseman Scott Rolen, who has turned down a lucrative long-term deal and is eligible to become a free agent after the 2002 season. Rolen has often cited the team’s unwillingness to spend money in order to compete as the primary factor in his decision to not make a commitment to the Phillies.

Abreu, who turns 28 in March, was to enter the final year of a three-year, $14.25 million contract that was slated to pay him $6 million this season. But he was not eligible for free agency until after the 2003 season.

Abreu is recovering from an emergency appendectomy earlier this month but is expected to report to camp later this month.

Abreu is coming off a season in which he hit .289 and set career highs with 31 homers, 110 RBI, 118 runs scored and 36 stolen bases. He was the first Phillie ever to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in the same season and finished fourth in doubles with 48 and tied for third in walks with 106.

A lifetime .307 hitter, Abreu has a career on-base percentage of .408 — trailing only Barry Bonds, Jeff Bagwell and Brian Giles among National League players with at least 2,800 plate appearances.

The acquisition of Abreu in November 1997 for shortstop Kevin Stocker stands as one of the greatest trades in franchise history.

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