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The emphasis was on defensive backs as NFL teams met the deadline for declaring franchise and transition players.

All-Pro safety Darren Sharper signed a six-year, $30 million deal to stay with the Green Bay Packers. Aeneas Williams, a six-time Pro Bowl cornerback, was designated Arizona's franchise player. Jason Sehorn, the league's highest-paid cornerback, is being allowed to enter free agency unencumbered.

One day after the Atlanta Falcons signed cornerback Ray Buchanan to a $36 million, six-year deal that includes an $8 million signing bonus, Sharper agreed to remain with the Packers for more money than any NFL safety.

"I don't want to sound boastful, but I feel as though I'm the best safety in the league, so that's why I thought I deserved to be the highest paid one," Sharper said.

Sharper led the NFL with nine interceptions last season and earned his first start in the Pro Bowl.

Williams, 33 and a top cornerback for a decade, had considered retirement. He is now guaranteed at least $4.1 million.

"By making Aeneas our franchise player, we are acknowledging to the rest of the league how the Cardinals feel about him," coach Dave McGinnis said.

Thursday was the final day teams could protect players by giving them franchise or transition tags. The franchise tag ensures a free agent will stay with a team unless a trade is worked out that usually includes two first-round draft choices; transition gives a player's old team right of first refusal and compensation.

Sehorn was not given the franchise player designation by the Giants. Sehorn already made $5.6 million, but Giants GM Ernie Accorsi said he is confident the team will re-sign him.

"There is risk to this, no question," Accorsi said. "Somebody could come in and offer a huge amount of money. But I have a degree of trust for these players and their agents, so we are going to give them every opportunity to sign what we think is a fair price and what they think is a fair price."

Kevin Carter, who went from All-Pro defensive end on a Super Bowl champion to underachiever for the Rams last season, was designated St. Louis' franchise player. His agent, Harold Lewis, said Carter didn't like the move.

"It's not free agency, that's for sure," Lewis said. "It's an honor on one hand to be labeled one of the best at your position. It's also a lot of money and it's all guaranteed, but Kevin would prefer to be an unrestricted free agent."

Carter is guaranteed $5.39 million next season.

Miami released wide receiver Tony Martin and running back Thurman Thomas, who will re-sign with Buffalo for one day, then retire as a member of the Bills.

"I appreciate the contributions that Thurman made to the Dolphins this season, in addition to his professionalism," Wannstedt said.

Tony Boselli, one of the league's best tackles, restructured his contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars, helping shave about $1.9 million off the team's salary cap.

The Bears retained Bryan Robinson by making him their transition player. They also agreed to terms on a three-year deal with tight end Fred Baxter, who was released by the Jets in December.

The Redskins released veteran tackle Andy Heck. Earlier this week, veterans Tre Johnson, Keith Sims, Irving Fryar and Derek G. Smith were cut from the team with the league's highest payroll.

Quarterback Doug Pederson, who started eight games for the Browns after Tim Couch broke a thumb, was released. The Browns also released second-year running back Madre Hill.

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