INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 27 -- The seemingly inevitable departure of wide receiver Laveranues Coles from the Washington Redskins has turned into a soap opera. And after the latest twist, NFL general managers here at the Scouting Combine believe Washington will be forced to bring him back, which is the more likely scenario, or release him -- if the team can't persuade him to drop his demands for a contract extension from trade suitors.
On Saturday, Coles caused the collapse of a trade with the New York Jets for wide receiver Santana Moss by requesting an extension from his potential new team. Despite Coles's troubled toe, several teams -- including the Baltimore Ravens, Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- remain interested, sources said. But even if Washington finds another trade partner, that team will be reluctant to consummate a deal for a player who requests an extension, said several NFL team executives.
The clock is ticking for the Redskins and wide receiver Laveranues Coles, left, who has drawn interest in a trade from the Ravens, Vikings and Buccaneers.
(Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
One NFL personnel official said Coles doesn't appear willing to budge from his stance because the wideout believes Washington reneged on an agreement to release him. Coach Joe Gibbs, who denied any such agreement, insisted Saturday that the Redskins will retain Coles for the 2005 season if the club doesn't receive equal value.
"You have to talk to the kid or his agent before you make the trade. You don't make the trade blind," said an NFC general manager who requested anonymity. "If you find out what Coles wants and you're not willing to pay it, you don't do a deal. You're trading for a guy who already has foot issues. Even if he's contractually bound, you don't want to bring him in with an attitude about his contract.
"[The Redskins] have to get the $5 million back before Wednesday. The clock is running out. If I'm the Redskins, I'd release him for the $5 million because he still has too much leverage."
But another AFC executive disagreed: "All it takes is one team willing to deal with any problems later. What's he going to do, not show up?"
Coles is due a $5 million bonus payment on April 1 and has appeared willing to forfeit the money if Washington releases him, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent. But Coles must do so by Wednesday for Washington to benefit from cap relief this season. After Wednesday, the Redskins would only benefit in the 2006 season.
The issue became moot since Washington appeared to find a way to trade Coles, whose agent Roosevelt Barnes did not return several calls to his office, without his consent. In the Moss-Coles trade, Washington was willing to assume cap responsibility for Coles's $5 million bonus. The Redskins intended to create enough room under the cap to trade Coles by restructuring tackle Chris Samuels's contract via an extension. Talks between Samuels and the Redskins progressed over the weekend, sources said, and an agreement is near.
Meanwhile, sources said the Redskins have a strong interest in acquiring cornerback Samari Rolle, who was released last week by the Tennessee Titans in a salary cap purge. Vice President Vinny Cerrato last night denied the Redskins were in serious negotiations with Rolle. Rolle's agent, Peter Schaffer, declined to comment.
Acquiring the 6-foot, 175-pound Rolle would almost certainly end cornerback Fred Smoot's career in Washington. Late last season, talks for an extension reached an impasse after Smoot declined Washington's offer that included a $10 million bonus. Smoot's camp countered with a $14 million bonus. One NFL source said Rolle, who was coached by assistant head coach of defense Gregg Williams when both were in Tennessee, has requested a signing bonus of at least $12 million.
"He's not quite the cover guy that Smoot is, but he would be one of the top three cornerbacks available" in free agency, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Sunday at a hotel where Cowboys team officials, including Coach Bill Parcells, are staying. "He can still play."
Last season, Rolle appeared in 12 games, finishing with one interception and 28 tackles, before undergoing left knee surgery. The seven-year veteran's best season was in 2000; Rolle made the Pro Bowl after making seven interceptions for the Titans.
Saturday, Gibbs said the Redskins still hoped to re-sign Smoot and noted the cornerback was at Redskins Park last week for a meeting that included owner Daniel Snyder.
Although the Redskins have emphasized character players, Rolle is scheduled for an April 6 court hearing for allegedly hitting his wife on Valentine's Day. Rolle turned himself in to police the next day on one misdemeanor charge of assault. He faces probation or up to one year in jail.