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Redskins Reacquire Thrash

Fullback Johnson Leaves in Other Trade

By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 30, 2004; Page D01

The Washington Redskins made their second draft-related deal in 24 hours last night when they reacquired wide receiver James Thrash from the Philadelphia Eagles, according to NFL sources.

The Redskins sent Philadelphia a 2005 fifth-round draft pick for Thrash, who played with the Redskins from 1997 to 2000. Thrash, who will turn 29 at the end of next month, started all 16 games for the Eagles last season. He caught 49 passes for 558 yards and one touchdown.


The Redskins reacquired wide receiver James Thrash from the Philadelphia Eagles. (Preston Keres - The Washington Post)


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Redskins officials refused to comment last night, but the deal is expected to be announced today, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal is not yet official.

Earlier yesterday, Washington completed a trade that sent fullback Bryan Johnson to the Chicago Bears for a sixth-round pick in the upcoming draft. That trade was negotiated late Sunday night, according to Johnson's agent, Derrick Fox.

Thrash had started 47 consecutive games over the past three seasons with Philadelphia, but was most effective as a third wide receiver and kick returner. Last season, he averaged 24 yards on 34 kickoff returns. The Eagles upgraded their wide receiving corps this month when they acquired Pro Bowler Terrell Owens.

During his Redskins stint, Thrash sparkled on special teams, which Coach Joe Gibbs has emphasized. The Redskins are already flush with wideouts, including Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner. The Redskins are also likely to sign restricted free agent Darnerien McCants to a new deal this week.

Speculation has circulated around the league that the Redskins will eventually put Gardner on the trading block, possibly for a draft pick.

The Redskins signed Johnson on Friday, matching a four-year, $4.1 million offer by the New Orleans Saints for the restricted free agent. By turning around and trading Johnson to the Bears -- a deal first reported in the Washington Times -- the Redskins managed to clear $2.2 million in salary cap space and gain a draft pick instead of losing him to the Saints without compensation.

Even though Johnson was a restricted free agent, the Saints would not have been required to compensate the Redskins with a draft pick for signing him because Johnson was undrafted out of Boise State in 2000.

The Redskins needed to complete the trade yesterday because Johnson was due an $800,000 roster bonus today.

Gibbs originally had hoped to keep Johnson, who plays well on special teams and who team officials had indicated would have been the starting H-back next season. But his contract would have counted $2.145 million against the salary cap in 2004, which is unusually high for a player of his status.

The leading candidate to replace Johnson appears to be Mike Sellers (6-3, 260 pounds), who played well in minicamp. Sellers played with the Redskins from 1998 to 2000.

McCants wasn't able to participate in Gibbs's three-day minicamp over the weekend because he is rehabilitating from arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder. But Gibbs has seen enough on film to tell that McCants has many similarities to Art Monk.

Before the start of free agency, the Redskins signed McCants to the lowest tender offer, $628,000, which allows Washington to receive a fifth-round draft pick. But the Redskins have started negotiations for McCants so that they don't risk losing him.

McCants said he received word of the Redskins' intentions in a voice mail from Gibbs last week after returning from a three-day vacation in Barbados. "I want to play for Coach Gibbs," said McCants, who expects to be healthy enough for the next minicamp following the late-April NFL draft. "And getting a phone call like that really makes you feel wanted. It's great to know that I'm going to be here. Now I can buckle down and learn this offense."

After trading Johnson, the Redskins have three selections in the draft, including the No. 5 overall pick and a fifth-round pick. The Redskins hope to gain another draft pick by relinquishing linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, who was disinvited from minicamp and told to seek a trade.


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