Redskins’ free agency starts quietly: Santana Moss deal reworked, Aqib Talib still in play


Cornerback Aqib Talib, traded from the Buccaneers to the Patriots last season, is a player the Redskins plan to try to make room to sign. Above, he tackles Fred Davis in a 2012 game. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

As the NFL’s free agency signing period got underway on Tuesday, the salary-cap strapped Washington Redskins’ moves were limited to restructuring veteran wide receiver Santana Moss’s contract and re-signing punter Sav Rocca to a two-year deal. Meanwhile, the team appeared to be on the verge of losing linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, a Pro Bowler on special teams, because it lacked the resources to compete with opposing teams interested in his services.

Despite releasing cornerback DeAngelo Hall and restructuring the contract of defensive end Adam Carriker on Monday, moves that saved roughly $10 million, Washington remained in dire straits because the second half of a two-year, $36 million salary cap penalty imposed by the NFL left them with little money to spend. When free agency opened at 4 p.m. Thursday, Washington was believed to be around $3 million under the cap thanks to the $2 million pay cut Moss accepted. (As part of the deal, Moss can earn that money back through incentives). More finagling was needed, however, for Washington to feasibly lure talent and be able to sign its upcoming draft class, which would require roughly $4 million.

But the Redskins weren’t abandoning all hope of meeting at least one need in free agency. Washington remained in the running Tuesday evening to sign free agent cornerback Aqib Talib, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

That person provided no details on the deliberations other than indicating the Redskins still have a chance to sign Talib, who finished last season with the New England Patriots and formerly played for Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

However, another person with knowledge of the Redskins’ situation said it appears the team will have a difficult time fitting a contract for Talib beneath the salary cap. That person said the Redskins would like to sign Talib but “do not have enough cash.”

The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg, LaVar Arrington, Mike Wise and Jonathan Forsythe debate whether secondary or offensive line are the biggest holes for the Redskins to fill during free agency. (The Washington Post)

The Patriots are thought to be interested in re-signing Talib.

Talib was traded to the Patriots last season after spending his first four full seasons with the Buccaneers. He has 19 interceptions in his five NFL seasons. He was a first-round draft choice by the Buccaneers in 2008.

Talib was suspended by the NFL for the 2010 season opener for a violation of the league’s personal conduct policy stemming from an incident with a cab driver in 2009. He was suspended for four games last season for violating the NFL’s policy on banned performance-enhancing substances. Talib said the suspension was due to Adderall use.

He also was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after being accused of firing a gun at his sister’s boyfriend in 2011. The felony charge later was dropped.

Cornerback is a pressing need for Washington because in addition to the release of Hall — who according to a person with knowledge of the situation drew interest from Minnesota, Detroit and Atlanta while his agent also had some talks with Washington about a possible return — the Redskins also lack a proven player for the nickelback position.

But Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan warned that the penalty — imposed by the NFL as punishment for how the team structured contracts in the uncapped 2010 season — could force his team to watch from the sideline while other teams upgraded their rosters at the start of the shopping period.

“Our situation is a little different,” he said on Monday. “We’re not able to go out in free agency. We might be able to do it for one guy or two guys depending on what the money is. That is just the hand we were dealt and are dealing with.”

Shanahan said Washington likely would have to wait until April’s draft to meet some of those pressing needs.

Meanwhile, the team likely will have to fill a void in the organization because of the apparent impending departure of Alexander.

Alexander, a Pro Bowl selection on special teams this past season, was poised early Tuesday evening to leave via free agency, a person familiar with the negotiations said.

“It looks that way,” the person said, calling the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers the leading bidders for the versatile Alexander, who since joining the Redskins in 2006 has lined up at seven positions in addition to playing regularly on three special teams units.

It was not clear as of early Tuesday evening whether the Redskins, hindered by their lack of salary cap space, would be able to re-enter the bidding in an effort to re-sign Alexander.

Shanahan said Monday that the Redskins hoped to re-sign Alexander but he didn’t know if the team could compete financially and Alexander had to take care of himself and his family.

As recently as last week, Alexander had expressed a desire to return to Washington, but also said “at the same time, I’ve got to do what’s best for my family. But I’m not worried about it. I’m confident in my game and how hard I’ve worked and know I can play anywhere.”

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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