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pakowitz 02-19-2003 03:37 PM

Knight: Six years with Saints is enough

Add another name to the already impressive list of safeties who will become unrestricted free agents at the end of this month and put this one right near the top of the roll call.

New Orleans standout Sammy Knight told on Wednesday that he will exercise the right to void the final year of his contract, a move that will put the six-year veteran into the unrestricted pool, where he should generate considerable interest from teams seeking to upgrade at the position.

"I've spent six years there and, the way it seems, it's time to move on," said Knight, one of the league's top playmakers at strong safety. "If you look at the way the Saints have operated, if they're going to keep you, they've made a move by now to keep you. There really hasn't been anything with me. It's kind of a repetitive thing with the team. Once you reach a certain salary level they don't want to keep you around."

The inclusion of Knight in free agency should come as a pleasant surprise for some teams in need of a player like him in the middle of their secondary. His name has not appeared on the unofficial lists of pending free agents and only those franchises that have done their homework might already be aware of his availability.

Knight, 27, signed a five-year, $10 million contract in 1999. The deal, which included a $2 million signing bonus, featured a provision that permitted him to void the 2003 portion of the contract if Knight accomplished performance incentives. He easily reached most of the benchmarks and that triggered his ability to void the contract.

Scheduled to earn a base salary of $1.925 million in 2003, Knight will pass on that, and instead test the free agent waters. He allowed on Wednesday he is anxious to gauge the market and hopes to sign with a team where he can be what he termed "a difference maker."

"Wherever I go," Knight said, "I want to help change things for the better."

Signed as an undrafted college free agent in 1997, the former Southern Cal star gained a starting job just a month into his rookie season, and has been a fixture in the Saints secondary ever since.

A Pro Bowl performer in 2001, Knight leads all safeties in "big plays" -- a total of sacks, interceptions, fumbles forced and recovered and touchdowns - over the past three seasons. His 16 interceptions in that period are the third most among all safeties and his 28 pickoffs in six years with the Saints ranks third on the franchise's all-time list.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for

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