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Published: Wednesday, 3/9/2005

Ex-Rockets Herndon, Taylor test free agency

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Two former University of Toledo players appear on the NFL's restricted free agent list, according to the NFL Players Association.

Cornerback Kelly Herndon and running back Chester Taylor are testing the waters while visiting prospective NFL employers.

A restricted free agent is a player who has three years of NFL experience and has received a contract offer for next season from his current team, which then has the opportunity to retain said player by matching any offer sheet tendered by another team.

In most cases, the team with which a player is currently affiliated receives compensation if it opts not to match the qualifying offer and allows a restricted free agent to leave.

Because of that compensation, which in some cases could be as high as a first-day draft pick, the restricted market is normally a very small part of the annual free agent pool. Rarely do more than a handful of restricted free agents change teams in any given off-season.

Herndon, however, joined the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent, so if he were to sign with someone else that team wouldn't owe Denver anything.

Taylor, meanwhile, was drafted by his current team, the Baltimore Ravens. If he receives an offer sheet that is not matched by the Ravens, his new team would have to surrender its sixth-round draft pick to Baltimore.

Because no compensation would be due, Herndon is likely to leave Denver after starting all 16 games last season and posting 69 total tackles while making two interceptions and forcing three fumbles.

Herndon, 28, was a late bloomer who bucked the odds to become an NFL starter.

He lettered all four seasons at UT (1995-98) on teams that went 34-12-1, but never was accorded any Mid-American Conference honors. In fact, it was two other Rocket cornerbacks, Jamal Belt and Clarence Love, who earned All-MAC honors during those same seasons.

Herndon was then waived by NFL teams five times and was out of football for most of three seasons before being signed to the Broncos' practice squad in 2001. He made the active roster the following season, playing mostly on special teams, before becoming a starting cornerback during the 2003 season.

According to ESPN.com, Herndon was offered a one-year contract worth $656,000 by the Broncos and has since received an offer sheet from Baltimore. Reportedly, he met with Atlanta Falcons officials yesterday.

Taylor twice earned first team All-MAC honors - and was a third-team All-American in 2001 - while becoming the leading rusher in UT history. He ran for 4,849 yards from 1998-2001.

Taylor has played behind NFL rushing star Jamal Lewis in Baltimore, appearing mostly as a third-down back. He did start four games last season while Lewis was under suspension and averaged more than 90 yards per game with a single-game high of 139 yards.

Cleveland Browns coach Romeo Crennel confirmed that Taylor visited with team officials in Berea, Ohio last week.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398


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