The chances of wide receiver Eric Moulds staying with the Buffalo Bills were already slim. Now his departure appears a virtual certainty.
Moulds' agent, Harry Henderson, said his client has no intention of taking a pay cut to remain with the Bills.
"I don't think that's an option at all," Henderson told The Buffalo News at the NFL Scouting Combine. "He's under contract, so they should pay him. If they want to reduce him, I just don't think he's going to be there."
Moulds, signed through 2007, is scheduled to count $10.85 million against the Bills' 2006 salary cap. The Bills were hoping the 10-year veteran would restructure his contract to lower that cap number.
Henderson is scheduled to speak to Jim Overdorf, the Bills' vice president of football operations and lead contract negotiator, over the telephone Monday. But Henderson's position won't change.
"We signed the contract, and the intent is stay with and play it out until the contract is completed," he said. "If they don't want to do it, we can't control that."
Cutting Moulds would save the Bills $5.5 million against the cap, but he would still count as $5.3 million.
Bills General Manager Marv Levy has said in the past the Bills might be able to keep Moulds at his present cap number. But Levy can't guarantee it.
"I know there are players we'd like to keep. He's one of them," Levy said. "Managing the cap is going to be an integral part of what we're able to keep or not. Nothing is a certainty when it's up for grabs. That's about where we are right now.
"Do we want to keep Eric? Yes. Can we? We hope so. That depends on what we can work out."
The second-leading receiver in franchise history, Moulds is coming off a subpar season in which he caught 81 passes for 816 yards and four touchdowns. His average of 10.1 yards per catch was his lowest since 1997.
Moulds got off to a slow start but finished strong with 27 catches and 305 yards in the last three games. He thrived when Kelly Holcomb started at quarterback but never clicked with J.P. Losman, who was under center when Moulds' club-record, 121-game streak with a reception ended.
Moulds was suspended for one game after questioning the play-calling following the Bills' 24-23 loss at Miami. His absence was felt the following week as the Bills' passing game struggled in a 35-7 loss to New England.
The 32-year-old Moulds may have lost a step, but opposing defenses still show respect for his big-play ability by rolling extra coverage on the side where he lines up.
"Eric has shown that he's certainly worth what he signed for," Henderson said. "He might be worth more to this team. We saw what happened in the New England game in Buffalo. It proved that they really needed him more than ever."
However, it looks like the Bills will have to prepare for life without him. His release could come this week as the NFL's new cap year begins Friday.
Henderson said Moulds is prepared for the possibility of being let go. Henderson added Moulds wouldn't have a problem finding another team for which to play.
"Eric loves Buffalo," Henderson said. "He loves the fans. He loves living there. He's a Buffalo person. But should he get less when he can get more somewhere else? No. He wants to be paid according to what the contract is. For Eric, it's a win-win. Eric will do very well somewhere else if the Bills don't want to keep him. He still has tremendous value."
Meanwhile, the agent for cornerback Nate Clements is disappointed but not surprised by the Bills' decision to make Clements their franchise player. Todd France said he will try to work out a long-term contract but doesn't know if that will happen.
"I have a good relationship with the Bills, but until we get into more in-depth conversation I have no idea what is going to happen," France said.
The franchise tag means the Bills must tender a one-year guaranteed contract of $5.89 million, which is the average of the top five salaried cornerbacks in the NFL.
The Bills and Clements must reach an agreement on a multiyear contract by March 17 or they will have to wait until mid-July to strike a deal in order to avoid losing the franchise designation for the life of the contract.
"From a player's standpoint, of course you don't want a one-year deal," France said. "Especially a player of Nate's caliber and what the free agent market commands and what a player of his stature could get, no one wants to see a one-year deal. The goal would be to work out a long-term deal. Whether we can do that or not, you never know."
The lack of a new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL players and owners could complicate the negotiations, France said. Another factor is the financial commitment the Bills are willing to make to lock Clements up for the next several years.
Clements, who would have been the top free agent cornerback, wants to be among the highest-paid players at his position. If allowed to hit the open market, he certainly would have attracted very lucrative offers. The Bills can lift the franchise tag at anytime, but that's not going to happen.
Clements still has to sign the franchise tender. Until then, he can stay away from all team functions, including the offseason conditioning program, spring minicamps and training camp. France said he's not sure when or if Clements will sign the tender.