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BILLS PAY TO RE-SIGN 4 VETERANS METZELAARS, GARDNER, PIKE, LAMB AGREE TO NEW PACTS

The cost of doing business continues to rise for the Buffalo Bills.

On Friday, they re-signed four of their five remaining veteran free agents, giving each a substantial increase over his 1992 salary.

Heading the list was tight end Pete Metzelaars, who received a two-year deal worth an average of $700,000-plus per season. That's an increase of more than $300,000 over his previous average salary. It also puts Metzelaars ahead of the Bills' other incumbent veteran tight end, Keith McKeller, who is due to make $650,000 this year.

Seldom-used fullback Carwell Gardner agreed to a two-year package worth $650,000 per season. He had been paid an average of $370,000 annually.

Defensive end Mark Pike came to terms on a one-year contract worth $500,000, a $150,000 jump over his '92 salary. And wide receiver Brad Lamb signed a two-year package that will pay him an average of $300,000 per season, nearly three times more than he previously earned.

The only remaining veteran free agent is cornerback Chris Hale, who is still in the process of selecting a new agent. The Bills are confident they will re-sign him.

To keep Metzelaars in the fold, the Bills had to outbid the Cleveland Browns, who aggressively pursued him in the last several days.

"You have to look at what Pete Metzelaars has done for us over the years," General Manager John Butler said. "He's not only a great football player, but a great person."

Metzelaars, who turns 33 Monday, is entering his 12th NFL season and eighth with Buffalo. For part of last season, he unseated McKeller as a starter, and figures to give him a strong challenge for the No. 1 spot in this summer's training camp.

Metzelaars finished the '92 season with 30 receptions for 298 yards and six touchdowns, and became the Bills' all-time leader in touchdown catches by a tight end with 16. Slowed by a preseason-long contractual holdout, McKeller caught 14 passes for 110 yards and no TDs.

The Bills also announced Friday that they signed free-agent running back Phil Bryant. The 5-foot-10, 213-pound Bryant joined the Kansas City Chiefs last year as a free agent from Virginia Tech, and was released at the end of training camp.

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