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Redskins Re-Sign H-Back Sellers

But Salary Cap Constraints Complicate Efforts to Retain Free Agent Smoot

By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 8, 2005; Page D03

The Washington Redskins re-signed reserve H-back Mike Sellers, one of the team's top special teams players last season. But the fate of cornerback Fred Smoot, Washington's main unrestricted free agent, remained in limbo because of financial reasons.

According to a source, Sellers signed a three-year contract with a slight raise from his $535,000 salary last season. Sellers and the Redskins had reached an impasse when free agency started last week because the fifth-year veteran sought a sizeable raise. And although the Miami Dolphins showed interest in Sellers, sources said their offer wasn't significant enough for Sellers to leave Washington.

Mike Sellers signed a three-year deal with the Redskins on Monday. (Bill Kostroun - AP)

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Sellers gained notoriety last season by committing three costly penalties on special teams during a 17-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field. The gaffes spurred speculation that the Redskins, who committed the second-most penalties in club history last season, would release Sellers. Special teams coach Danny Smith, however, was impressed by the physical play of the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Sellers, who finished with the second-most tackles (29) on special teams.

Re-signing Smoot will prove more difficult because Washington is in a salary cap quandary after trading wide receiver Laveranues Coles to the New York Jets for wideout Santana Moss. Washington took a $9 million cap hit that actually was roughly $6 million because Coles was scheduled to cost $3 million this season. Washington hasn't budged from its initial offer to Smoot of a $10.5 million signing bonus.

Unless Washington creates more cap space -- trading wideout Rod Gardner would save $2 million -- the club will be forced to reduce the offer since several of its free agents remain unsigned. Also, the Redskins must save room for signing their first-round pick, ninth overall, barring a trade down in the draft to reduce the cost. The biggest cap benefit of trading Coles is that his salary won't count toward the 2006 season, when Washington appears headed for more financial constraints.

Smoot, who has been in daily contact with the Redskins, was scheduled to make his first free agent visits this week. Smoot's agent, Bus Cooke, didn't return messages yesterday. But Smoot appears likely to visit the Kansas City Chiefs, who need a cornerback after declining to sign Samari Rolle because of health reasons. Yesterday, the Ravens signed Rolle, who sought a $15 million bonus, to a six-year contract, which reportedly included an $11 million bonus.

According to a source close to Smoot, the Chiefs have contacted him. New England Patriots cornerback Ty Law also is reportedly scheduled to visit the Chiefs this week. If Kansas City doesn't show strong interest in Smoot, he appears to have only a slight chance of getting a better offer than Washington's.

Moss was at Redskins Park for his physical yesterday and an introductory news conference has been tentatively scheduled for tomorrow. Because of a personal appearance today, Coles won't take his physical until tomorrow in New York and is expected to address the media on Thursday.

Meantime, the Redskins have made the lowest tender offer to reserve defensive end Ron Warner, a restricted free agent. Warner and the Redskins reached a settlement determining his class status as a free agent. Initially, the Redskins deemed Warner an exclusive-rights free agent -- in the NFL for three accrued seasons -- and thus prohibited from receiving other offers.

Now, if another club makes him an offer, the Redskins have seven days to match. If not, the Redskins are entitled to a pick in the seventh-round, where Warner was selected in 1998.

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