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Players for hire: any takers?

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If George Steinbrenner or Gene Autry owned football instead of baseball teams , imagine the money they'd offer to free agents Alfred Jenkins and Ed (Too Tall) Jones. Actually, they might be no more interested than the average NFL owner, who almost never dabbles in the open player market.

Therefore, no one should be surprised to see All-Pros Jenkins and Jones, or 147 other new free agents, re-sign with their present clubs. NFL compensation rules are such that going after free agents doesn't pay. If it did, some big spender could shop around for a quarterback. Bert Jones, Gary Danielson, and Joe Theismann are all available. So too are receivers Charlie Joiner, Harold Jackson, Dave Casper, and Jenkins, plus running back Rob Carpenter and return specialist Carl Roaches. The owner who prefers defense might prefer going after , D. .D. Lewis, Archie Reese, Ted Hendricks, or Jones.

But the stiff price teams must pay in draft choices to sign their kind has discouraged player mobility. The players' union cites the relocation of only six of 555 free agents since 1977 as evidence of this. The players can blame themselves, though, for agreeing to prohibitive compensation rules written into the collective-bargaining agreement, due to expire in July,


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