The NFL extended the beginning of free agency by 72 hours, but the Denver Broncos didn’t need the extra time to sign offensive tackle Matt Lepsis, one of their most important potential free agents. Lepsis signed a four-year contract extension Thursday. Lepsis has played well since moving from right tackle to left tackle two seasons ago. The NFL owners met in New York on Thursday morning but left after deciding to break off talks of a new collective-bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association. However, on Thursday afternoon the league pushed the start of free agency back from late Thursday to Sunday so the two sides could resume negotiations. The collective-bargaining agreement is set to expire after the 2007 season, but the final year of that deal has no salary cap. That threat, and the uncertainty surrounding free agency with no new collective-bargaining agreement, is causing urgency to get a deal done. With Lepsis under contract the Broncos will retain their starting offensive line. Lepsis and center Tom Nalen could have become free agents, but they each resigned. Houston, coached by former Broncos offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and in need of offensive line help, likely would have been among teams trying to sign Lepsis if he became a free agent. “I’m getting older and that’ll play a part into it, but I don’t know, I love it here,” Lepsis, who played at the University of Colorado, said last August. “I don’t have any intentions of leaving.” The team did not release terms of the deal. Denver has one more key free agent, defensive tackle Gerard Warren, and three extra days to come to an agreement before free agency begins. Linebacker Keith Burns, running back Ron Dayne and tight end/longsnapper Mike Leach are among other Broncos who can become free agents. CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-4891 or email@example.com
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