Broncos must
make decision on
Elam and others

Elam scores 13 points

Star-Bulletin wire services

DENVER >> Place-kicker Jason Elam figures he'll be playing elsewhere next year. Tight end Shannon Sharpe and quarterback Steve Beuerlein haven't decided whether they want to keep playing, and quarterback Brian Griese has an uncertain future with the team.

"When I came here, I didn't think I was going to be here for 10 years. So I can't be unhappy about anything." Jason Elam, Hawaii alum who has kicked for the Broncos for the past 10 years

The Denver Broncos, who failed to qualify for the playoffs for the third time in four years, will face some critical personnel decisions during the offseason.

Elam, the best kicker in Broncos history, is one of five players who are set to become unrestricted free agents. The others are safety Izell Reese, cornerback Tyrone Poole, defensive lineman Montae Reagor and running back Olandis Gary.

Elam, a Hawaii alumnus, kicked first-half field goals of 44, 54 and 21 yards in yesterday's 37-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals. He said he felt sad walking off the field for what probably was the final time in a Denver uniform.

"It's a little sad and depressing that I might not be back and playing in front of this crowd," he said. "But that's the NFL. When I came here, I didn't think I was going to be here for 10 years. So I can't be unhappy about anything."

Asked to assess his odds of signing a new contract with Denver, Elam said, "I don't think it's very good, but I never want to say never. We've kept an open dialogue through all of this. I feel like I've got a good relationship with Mike (coach Mike Shanahan) and everybody in the organization. I would love to stay here."

Elam, 32, said being a free agent "guarantees me that I can at least go out on the free-agent market and see what I'm worth."

Sharpe, the NFL career leader in receptions and yards by a tight end, finished the season with 61 catches for 686 yards despite missing three games with a partially dislocated right elbow.

Sharpe, who returned to the Broncos last spring and signed a two-year contract, acknowledged that he was expecting to play only one year.

"I'll sit down with Mike and see the direction he wants to go in, and I'll let him know the direction I want to go in," Sharpe said after yesterday's game. "I dislocated my elbow and missed 3 1/2 games and I still was able to put up decent numbers. I still feel I can make a contribution to this ballclub and help this team win."

Sharpe, 34, has adhered to a rigorous workout schedule, and said the difficulty of maintaining that schedule might factor into his decision.

"Starting in March, do I feel like getting up at 7 o'clock and going to run and lift all over again to give myself a chance to compete?" he said. "If I start missing workout days, it's time to walk away."

Beuerlein started three games this season, including yesterday's game after Griese was benched following a poor performance last week in Oakland. He completed 16 of 24 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns.

At 37, Beuerlein said he, too, was uncertain about playing another season or two.

He said he would find appealing any offer the Broncos make, including a chance to return as the starter next season, during which he would also help groom a younger quarterback.

"But it's premature to talk about that now," he said. "I have a lot of soul-searching to do. One day I feel like I've had enough, and the next day I feel like I could go a lot longer."

Bucs standing in Parcells' way: The Dallas Cowboys or any other team wishing to talk to Bill Parcells about a coaching job must first get permission from Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers said in Champaign, Ill., last night.

"Reports that Bill Parcells signed a contract to be head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after our elimination from the playoffs last season are accurate," Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay said in a statement during the Bucs' regular-season finale against the Chicago Bears.

Parcells, who last January decided not to take the Bucs' job, has talked recently with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

"We have put Bill Parcells and his representatives on notice that any team that wishes to speak with him must first receive our permission in accordance with the NFL anti-tampering rules and we will require compensation to grant such permission," McKay said.

The NFL said it would look into the matter today.

National Football League

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