Kansas City, Mo The Kansas City Chiefs are refusing to rule out the possibility that tampering was involved in quarterback Elvis Grbac's decision to become a free agent.
"I don't know about that, specific to tampering," Chiefs' president and general manager Carl Peterson said Thursday. "I will be an interested bystander ... to see who and when Elvis does sign with and for how much."
Peterson also said the 30-year-old quarterback had strung Kansas City along for three weeks just pretending to negotiate.
"I would have appreciated him being forthright and letting me know," Peterson said.
In a positive development Thursday for the Chiefs, they signed Pro Bowl guard Will Shields to a six-year, $26 million contract with a $7 million signing bonus that will probably keep him in Kansas City for his entire career. Shields joined the Chiefs as a third-round draft pick in 1993.
The contract of Grbac, who threw for 28 touchdowns and more than 4,000 yards last season, was unexpectedly terminated Wednesday night in a move that shocked Chiefs' followers and left team officials feeling extremely disappointed, if not betrayed.
Peterson and coach Dick Vermeil were careful not to actually say they believed tampering was a factor.
"Dick and I will not use the word 'tampering,"' Peterson said. "I never mentioned the word tampering."
Added Vermeil, "I have some strong hunches. You know this, there are no secrets in the NFL. And as soon as you think there are, you're going to be embarrassed."
Grbac had been due a $10 million roster bonus, a big problem because the Chiefs ended the season about $30 million over their salary cap limit.
The Chiefs had been confident of reworking the contract to provide some cap relief. But Peterson said Jim Steiner, Grbac's agent, made only one offer in the three weeks he and the Chiefs talked a five-year deal averaging $8 million a year, including a $20 million signing bonus.
"There was never another offer or counter. There were three offers by us over that period," Peterson said.
"Jim Steiner called (assistant general manager) Denny Thum yesterday (Wednesday) and said, 'I've got to be honest with you. I've been dancing with you. We really had no intention of negotiating a contract with you. Elvis does not want to stay in Kansas City. He wants to move on and we want to test the free agent market.'"
Earlier Wednesday in salary cap moves, the Chiefs had released defensive tackle Chester McGlockton, the most expensive defensive player on the roster, and terminated veteran cornerback James Hasty.
"We are $8 million under the cap," Peterson said Thursday. "We are cap rich."
But the Chiefs are also quarterback-poor. Six-year veteran Todd Collins spent most of last season as No. 3 behind Grbac and the now-retired 42-year-old Warren Moon.
"We have some other options we'll look at, free agency or the possibility of a trade," Peterson said.
One possibility may be a trade with St. Louis for Trent Green, Kurt Warner's backup who is a favorite of Vermeil and would be familiar with the system Vermeil will install. The problem there, however, is that it would probably cost the Chiefs their first-round draft pick, which Peterson admitted would be "awfully painful, terribly painful."
"We'll go forward," Peterson said. "We wish (Grbac) the best. I certainly hope Jim Steiner can negotiate a contract that's somewhere close to what he said to me would be necessary to make it happen."
Peterson, Grbac's staunchest defender during his four often controversial seasons, paused before answering when asked if he felt betrayed.
"I've been in this business too long to feel betrayed," he said. "We all can change our minds or our thinking. I chalk it up to free agency."